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Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. ~ Romans 2:4 (TLB)
One of the gifts of the last year is a part-time job the Lord gave me as a paid singer in the Soli Dei church choir. Not being raised in a liturgical tradition, I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of the church calendar and being exposed to another style of worship.
Since my husband and I attend a community church with multiple services, most weeks I’m honored to worship at the Lutheran church with my friends in the choir as well as with my family at our home church.
Oh how I love worship music of all styles! I’m as comfortable in my choir robe as I am rocking out to the drums of our home church. I’ve also been known to slip away to a nearby charismatic church to enjoy worship dance or to head to another part of town and enjoy the pageantry at a friend’s Catholic Church. God’s people are everywhere, and there is great delight in joining with them in worship of our shared King.
It is due to this part-time job that I attended the Ash Wednesday service I’ve talked about in the last two devotions. My sweet Jesus also used the music of this job to break through my turmoil and finish the work of repentance in my heart.
The railing I mentioned yesterday was grounded in anger at God. I simply didn’t like how He was handling my life. I was tired of hardship. When He dug up the lie on that Thursday, I didn’t immediately repent. I spent two days thrashing about in confusion and anger. The wrestling with God allowed my processing to take the lie to its deepest places to be more fully uprooted. It needed to be banished once and for all, no stone unturned!
By Saturday morning I was spent.
Exhausted, I hauled myself out of bed for a three-hour Easter music rehearsal. Entering the choir room is entering a beautiful community. And in that sacred assembly of fellow believers with voices lifted in song the same Spirit who inspired the great composers of long ago took their music, reached across centuries, and stilled my heart. It started with Mendelssohn’s healing melody as we sang, “Grant us thy peace so graciously.”* The music swelled to fill the rehearsal space and the space of my soul. Weary of the questioning, the wrestling, my words became a prayer. Oh how I needed peace. Yes, Lord, grant me peace.
My heart then broke with an allegory by Tchaikovsky called “The Crown of Roses (Legend).” We sang, “The boy said humbly; ‘Take, I pray, All but the naked thorns away.’ Then of the thorns they made a crown, and with rough fingers pressed it down . . .” The Lord’s sacrifice is no children’s story. The harsh words, barbed whip, and thorned crown really did pierce His body and soul. And like the humble boy in the song, He allowed it. The God-man received the whip, the scorn, the cross, and succumbed to a cruel death.
But it was Richard Shephard’s “Good Friday Reproaches” the Spirit used to cleanse me of the last vestiges of anger and distrust. Our director, Andy, is committed to communicating the message of the pieces he chooses, and this piece has a particularly emotive refrain. For at least ten minutes we sang two sentences: “My people what wrong have I done to you? What good have I not done for you?”
Over and over those words echoed and reverberated in the rehearsal hall. Andy encouraged reflective word emphasis, dynamics, leaning into the text, making it spark with emotion and meaning.
My people what wrong have I done to you?
What good have I not done for you?
Part of repentance is to feel regret.
I’d been rethinking my life. Struggling to let go of the sin of unbelief and to change my way of thinking. Now I ached with regret. It was as if Christ Himself spoke to me in that refrain, and then the Spirit whispered a line from another song I’d heard. “But tell me now, where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?”**
I felt Him. “What wrong have I done to you?” He gently questioned. “Tell Me where is My fault in loving you with My whole heart? What good have I not done for you?”
As I sang with my lips I confessed with my heart, “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing but love and give. Like a selfish child who doesn’t get her way I’ve ignored Your sacrifice and accused You of not loving me well.”
It’s amazing how tender He is even when He calls for repentance, how even in asking us to rethink our attitudes and behaviors He floods us with a magnitude of love.
My friend, do you hear it too? The heart cry of Jesus, the One who gave all for us? Do you hear Him whisper, “What wrong have I done? What good have I withheld? Where can you fault Me? I’ve loved you with all I have.”
The enemy constantly tries to confuse God’s people and steal their joy. The vile whisper reverberates, saying God withholds from us, that His love is not to be trusted.
But where is fault in the One who spread His arms and gave all?
He left the splendor of heaven
Knowing his destiny
Was the lonely hill of Golgotha
There to lay down His life for me
If that isn’t love
The ocean is dry
There’s no stars in the sky
And the sparrow can’t fly
If that isn’t love
Then heaven’s a myth
There’s no feeling like this
If that isn’t love***
Thank You, Jesus. I am undone by Your selfless love. You have no fault. All is done from love. You withhold no good thing.
*”Verleih Uns Frieden (Grant Us Thy Peace)”, text by Martin Luther, translated to English by Andrew Halladay. Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
**From “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons
***“If That Isn’t Love” by Dottie Rambo
(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: Rooted. Soul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)
Soul Scents: Awaken, Book 1 in the series, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow!