I was sitting in my window seat winging my way on a work trip, kindle in my hand, earbuds in with old southern gospel playing in my ears when the hijacker appeared. I don’t think anyone else noticed this interloper. He was benign enough. Was this a terrorist? An ideologue? Someone intent on my harm? No, the reason no one else noticed is that the hijacker was a song in my play list. You see, I was minding my own business reading when a song began to play in my ears that would hijack my thoughts for the rest of the day.
Lost in thought as I tried to finish a book I started months ago about the gospel my foot began tapping to an old friend, a song my mother introduced me to and one she requested sung at her funeral – The Uncloudy Day. As I cranked up the familiar melody in my ears and my foot began pounding out the beat to the point I was sure I was disturbing my seatmate on the flight I was transported back 16 years to the church where I grew up. It was not just any day I was transported back to, no I was taken back to the day my brother and I buried our parents. You see the only thing my mother had ever said about her funeral before she died was that she wanted The Uncloudy Day sung at her funeral so that is one of 2 songs we requested be sung that day. However this is not the memory that hijacked my thoughts.
No, the memory that arrested me at 30,000 feet was my memory of watching a man who loved my whole family dearly sing a song from a genre he hated just to serve my brother and I and to honor my parents. In my minds eye I was 20 once again, numb from grief, deeply desiring God to be honored through the Gospel being preached and that He be praised through the testimony of song, sitting on the front row in the meeting house of the saints and knowing as the first notes of this Southern Gospel staple hit the speakers that the only reason Brother D would be singing this song was because of his deep love for his Heavenly Father which poured out and overflowed in his love for me and my brother.
I remember watching his hands shake slightly as he took the mic from the stand and raised it to his lips to sing. I remember him fighting to keep his voice even as he began to sing and watching as his eyes closed so he could focus on the melody and the words so he could get through the song. Was this nervous stage fright in the face of the standing-room-only overflow crowd? No, I had the privilege of watching him praise the Lord through song for over a decade at this point and it would have taken far more than that crowd to have rattled him. No, the shaky hands and those eyes closing were because D loves deeply and for whatever reason he had decided to love my family many years before therefore that love wanted nothing more than to “mourn with those who mourn”.
This choice D had made was not an un-costly decision. More than once one member of our family or another had caused him no small frustration, sometimes pain and more than a little confusion but he loved us anyway. Not only did he love my parents because they served with him in ministry and my brother and I because he served us in ministry, but D was one of our elders. He was charged with watching over our souls, a responsibility he took seriously and discharged with great joy. The only way D knows how to love and serve is with his whole heart. That is why he was one of the first ones to come to comfort my brother and I on that terrible Sunday morning. He did not come with many words but came with a hug that would not let me go as he sat next to me on the couch and cried.
So at 30,000 feet when The Uncloudy Day began to play my heart was overwhelmed and captivated with gratitude to God for D and for the privilege of being so deeply loved by him. Long had he preached to our stubborn hearts that we should strive to be “Jesus with skin on” and in that moment, like thousands before, as he struggled to sing a song he did not even like D demonstrated exactly what that looked like as he brought us into the presence of The Balm of Gilead who alone could bind our wounds and heal our hurts. I love you D!