I noticed the envelope in the mailbox, all bright and cheery, and it made me smile.
Young enough to be my daughter, she is a long-time friend, since a teenager, her with the enthusiasm for life that has not dwindled through the years. Together we shared Bible study, birthday parties, yard-sale treasure hunting, and cups of tea at the kitchen table. When she moved away, we kept in touch by letters. Hers were always so much fun, brimming with cute drawings, punctuated with her funny sayings, and filled with colorful stickers fitting her purpose. It was like a visit on stationery.
She is a mature young woman now with a husband, a daughter, and farm animals occupying her life. Letters are fewer between us. Finding one in my mailbox from this esteemed friend was a delight.
I always take my time, examining the envelope first, slowly opening it, and sitting down to read her missive. The contents are newsy and the words conversational, almost as if she were sitting across from me.
She and her husband feel the Lord’s leading in a new direction. I read of their journey thus far, anticipating a road of endurance requiring trust in the face of obstacles, one with an uncertain future. They believe this is their calling.
I breath prayers after I lay down the pages. This path will be hard, not for the faint of heart, but the faithful of heart. There will be mountains to climb, rocky and steep. There will be days when it seems their efforts are not enough. Knowing her, I expect she is fully aware, trusting in the God who leads us through uncharted waters with only Himself as the light. When the storms come, and they will come, she will learn to hold to an unchanging hand.
I send a message to her that I am just a phone call away and will be here if she sends out an SOS. I determine to begin a letter to my friend in the coming days, and I write their names on my prayer list.
The next morning Steven Curtis Chapman sings on the CD player, music lifting the atmosphere and turning our hearts heavenward and away from the burdens of life. As I help Sweet William prepare for the day, Steven is singing our song, “I Will Be Here,” and the words ring true: “When the mirror tells us we’re older, I will hold you, and I will be here . . . I will be true to the promise I have made, to you and to the One who gave you to me. I will be here.“
I remember the vows made, me in a white dress and him in a black tuxedo, making promises before God and the company gathered, not knowing what they would require of us. We both had on rose-colored glasses standing there in the church and for many months after. But eventually the rose fades and we see clearly that life is hard. God never turned loose of either of us, determined to pour out His grace and complete the work He planned.
Almost fifty years later, Sweet William and I cherish the vows we made to one another, knowing they have tested us, tried us, and kept us committed to one another in spite of ourselves. We were called to a hard obedience, a faithfulness only made possible by a faithful God infusing His strength in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I think of my friend starting a new journey into the unknown, and I recognize obedience will be required, when things are going well and when they are not. God will be there in it all, calling forth His strength in them when the task is beyond their own.
As Steven Curtis Chapman continues to sing, I hear a different song now, “A Moment Made for Worshipping.“
When I’m feeling loved and happy, when I’m feeling all alone
When I’m failing to remember all the love that I’ve been shown
Every beat of my heart is another new place to start to know
This is a moment made for worshipping
And I wonder if the hard obedience, the moving forward when God calls us to follow, the days we press on by sheer grit, tenaciously believing God is with us in this . . . can this be counted as worship?
When we keep trying though we are weary . . .
When we get up after falling down yet again . . .
When we love by our actions because the feeling is faint . . .
When the tears flow down because we don’t understand the plan . . .
When we follow not knowing where He leads . . .
When we’re tempted to give up but know that only Christ Jesus has the words of Life . . .
The hard obedience, counted as worship. May it be so.