The Worship Leader
Printable Version (PDF)
The dull, yellow light cast a soft glow around the room. As I entered the room, a somber hush descended over me and calmed the many thoughts that had been aggravating my mind. I had just finished a hectic packing job before leaving on the four-hour drive back to college. Things to take, notes to leave, emails to write, money to withdraw; all these things became irrelevant as I stepped into my grandmother's room to say goodbye.
She was eighty-five years old, frail, weak, and underweight. My grandfather had died two years before, and eventually she came to live with the family at our house. For over fifty years, "Gammaw" had loved and supported my grandfather; his death tore a gaping hole in her life. Like a sailboat without wind, she listlessly idled through boredom, depression, and discouragement.
It was late, and I was worried that she might have already gone to sleep. I entered the room and, with colloquial cheerfulness, told her I was leaving. When she heard my voice, she sat up from her bed with a struggle. Her eyes brightened and she held out her arms for a farewell embrace. A wave of pity and terror swept over me. I had never come into her room this late. She had taken out her false teeth, her hair was not combed, she was not wearing her glasses and her pale parchment-like skin hung loosely over her bones and tendons. In her nightgown, she looked like a yellowed autumn leaf ready to be whisked off into the winter of death. We try in vain to hide the pain of dying. I gave her a gentle embrace and stood by the side of her bed holding her hand.
Then, by God's sweet grace, He decided to show me something. As I held her hand, it occurred to me that it was not she who was weak, but I. I, who had carelessly loved her. I, who cared so much about outward appearance and so little about my inner condition. I, who felt insecure when I was held in the hand of a living God. I, who complained when my life was brimming with comforts and joys.
More than that, I realized that the true and lasting treasures I did have in my life were largely owed to this woman. I recalled the times as a child when Mom would tell me about my grandmother (who at the time lived in Texas and only visited once a year at thanksgiving). I remember Mom's earnest voice telling of how Gammaw prayed for us with undying faithfulness. It had seemed extraneous to me at the time, but now I felt the weight of my debt to this fragile yet faithful warrior. "She had a hard time visiting, and she is not as active or fun as your other grandmother" my Mom would say, "But how she prays for you. It really is her gift. She prays so faithfully."
I was blind if I saw my grandmother as an old and weak woman. I was not holding the hand of a depressed, elderly person who was simply an added challenge to our lives: I was holding the hand of a queen of glory. A queen who had been ransomed with blood and traveled faithfully over the years in a distant land. Each mile of her journey, she had sown seeds of prayers. These prayers were not in vain. They had become mighty oaks, growing all around me as lush and delightful blessings. For the moment, she was brought low and weak, but soon the day would come when her silver cord would break and she would be swept into her rightful eternal dwelling. This withered hand I held would soon rule and reign with angels.
As I slowly grasped this glorious paradox, I could think of nothing except the God who wills and works this way. He takes the lowly and despised and lifts them higher into majesty and glory than I could ever understand. The story of my grandmother's life is not about a woman, but about a God that works in ways we cannot comprehend. This God is utterly unique- He would be more glorified through her life than my greatest concept of glory, and her reward would be richer than anything I could understand.
What more could I say?-what more could I think?-for who is like this God? Was this the God that I carelessly prayed to over my McDonald's hamburgers? Was this the God who existed to provide me with a comfortable social atmosphere on Sunday mornings? Was this the God that only deserved fifteen minutes of my time every night before I went to bed? Was this the God who was most proclaimed by clever Sunday morning pep talks? I carried around my notion of God in a bucket. Now, I stood stunned on the edge of a vast ocean, gazing at the waves of His endless immensity. How many worship services had I stood through never understanding what I was singing? How many times had I read the Bible with the eyes of my heart tightly closed? Yet here, in a quiet, dimly lit bedroom it was an old, withered hand that flung open my heart to worship.
With a deep and somber joy, I stood and whispered goodbye. She feebly said she would be praying that I would have a safe journey. I arrived safe at school four hours later with the sweet aroma of worship still lingering on my mind.
The following summer, I went to Kenya on a short-term missions trip. We heard discouraging news of my grandmother's health via email, and, on July 2nd, we got the message that she had died.
Her room was not changed when I returned home and I would go there to be alone. The same dull, yellow lamp cast the soft, solemn glow around the room. I went to the bed; stiff, neatly made and cold, and knelt to pray. Here it was that a queen of glory opened my eyes afresh to her Father. Here it was I had seen the perishable seed that was sowed in dishonor and death so that it could be raised to imperishable glory. I remembered her cold, dry hands and with a flush of joy thought of the day when I would hold those hands again. This time they would not be the dry hands of the dying, but hands alive and flowing with the blood of glory.