I’d been thinking it all wrong.
We were in church, singing. I love singing those songs that carry me to a place of peace and worship, songs that focus my attention on what I wish I’d been focusing on all week long; God’s love for me.
So many distractions, still. I squeezed my eyes shut, raised my hands, palms up, surrender.
When distractions buzz around my head I focus on Jesus – his name, his presence, even the image of him. I block out the reality of all the bodies around me and their voices and their eyes, I block them all out, or I try, so that it’s just the two of us.
That’s what I did today. As the music crescendoed I pictured Jesus up there in the sky, high above me, looking down benevolently. There may have even been some fluffy white clouds at his feet.
I’m surprised at myself.
Even as I put the thought bubble into words.
What was I thinking?
What kind of stereotyped version of my Saviour had I conjured up from the recesses of my mind?
The subconscious reveals many flaws.
But in that moment I felt him gently correct me until he was standing right in front of me, centimeters from my face.
As I sang and surrendered, Jesus was saying to me, “I am here.”
And he seemed to be asking me something:
“Who am I to you?”
I sifted through all the familiar relationship titles; father, brother, husband, friend, colleague, mentor… none seemed quite adequate.
I’ve been reading The Secret Garden with my five-year-old son. We finished it the other night. Took us a while, being his first book without illustrations on every page. There was a fair bit of, “Are you still listening?” and, “What did I just read?”
Throughout the story, the main characters speak of finding Magic all around them, in the garden and the animals, in the food and activity that makes them strong and in the joy that bubbles up from within them. These are children without strong adult influence in their lives and they name the goodness they see around and within them as Magic.
When Mrs Sowerby is invited into the garden – a motherly, loving woman with a broad Yorkshire accent – she recognises their Magic:
“I never knowed it by that name, but what does the’ name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i’ France an’ a different one i’ Germany. Th’ same thing as set th’ seeds swellin’ an’ th’ sun shinin’ made thee a well lad an’ it’s th’ Good Thing. It isn’t like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th’ Big Good Thing doesn’t stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin’ worlds by th’ million – worlds like us. Never thee stop believin’ in th’ Big Good Thing an’ knowin’ th’ world’s full of it – an’ call it what tha’ likes. Tha’ wert singin’ to it when I come into th’ garden.”
Colin, Mary and Dickon were singing an old doxology. It was prompted by Colin’s abrupt realisation that he was finally well. After years of bed rest and stifled youth, he was running and jumping and digging and laughing. He felt the need to mark the revelation, to reverently acknowledge the turning point. He wanted to be thankful. And Dickon sang the four-line tune that he’d learnt from church.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
I know it’s just a storybook, but as Mrs Sowerby (whose quotes frequently had us in giggles for my stumbling over the pronunciation) later said, “Th’ Magic listened when tha’ sung th’ Doxology. It would ha’ listened to anything tha’d sung. It was the joy that mattered. Eh! lad, lad – what’s names to th’ Joy Maker.”
These wonderful characters in an old storybook were praising God in the only way they knew how – by taking joy in his creation. What a beautiful thing! And isn’t it true that we get bound up sometimes in the right ways of doing things, the right ways of saying things, when it matters not an iota?
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
– 1 Samuel 16:7
“Who am I to you?” he asked me.
He is the defined and the indefinable. He is words like The Joy Maker, Friend, Redeemer, The Good Big Thing and even The Magic. And he is words without articulation. He is.
And as I am reminded of who he is, I am reminded of who I am, and that worship is a secret garden spilling with beauty and growth, that he invites us to inhabit.