Saturday, February 13, 2010

Your Song

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126.2)


Leona was a twin born in rural Mississippi on Leap Year Day 1900. When the midwife saw her sister crowning quickly behind her, she wrapped Leona in a towel and placed her snugly in a boot to attend the other’s delivery. The nickname “Boots” stuck. Hardscrabble life as a black sharecropper’s daughter endowed her with two mighty gifts: determination and dreams. In the mid-1920’s she boarded a train for Chicago to make a better life among thousands who migrated north to find work. I got to know Boots a half-century later, when I volunteered to drive her to church every Sunday evening. I’d go by her house early to listen to her stories. Her mind was razor-sharp, but she often retold the tale of arriving in the big city because it was her favorite. “Tim,” she’d say, “when I looked up at all those tall buildings, I said, ‘Boots, your dream’s coming true!’” She’d chuckle to herself and add, “God sure is a good God.”

Boots wasn’t your typical church lady. On the contrary, she was a salty old gal. She called things like she saw them, usually tossing in a few phrases many considered unbecoming. Beyond her love for God and people, her passions were baseball and chewing tobacco. When I could swing by her place to watch the game with her, someone—a niece or nephew, neighbor or friend—invariably knocked on her door to ask for help. Rent was overdue. They needed bus fare to get to work. Their phone was shut off. “Hand me my pocketbook,” she always said. Seeing this pattern, I said, “Boots, you need to look after yourself.” She gave me a wise grin. “When I look after them, God looks after me. I’ve never gone hungry a day in my life and I never will. I know they think I’m crazy. Half the time they think they’re tricking me. But what they do is on them. I’m going on anyhow.” She was determined to let nothing stop her from living her dream of having enough to share. Boots viewed each request as a personal favor to her. She was a Christian through and through.

A Happy Road

Sometimes, if our conversation ebbed, Boots unconsciously sang to herself. She couldn’t carry a tune, but her song soared on wings of beauty. It was always the same:

And He walks with me and He talks with me

And He tells me I am His own

And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known 

If she caught me smiling, she’d laugh and say, “No sense in feeling sad and sorry when it’s a happy road.” And that’s precisely where the author of Psalm 126 is—on a happy road. He sets the scene in the first verse: “When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.” He and his fellow travelers are like Boots when she got to Chicago. They can’t help but rejoice as their dreams of freedom and restoration start coming true. “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy,” verse 2 says. “Then it was said among the nations, ‘The LORD has done great things for them.’”

Ironically, they’re returning on the same road that led them away. Being forced to leave their families and homes for a strange land made their journey mournful and frightening. One imagines they traveled in silence, terrified of making a sound, trembling with fear of what lay ahead. Yet though it’s the same road, their return bears no likeness to their departure. Laughter and exuberance fills the air. They sing without hesitation. They’re headed home. No doubt their unbridled joy seems crazy to others. Most likely they meet people who try to take advantage of them. Yet despite any opposition or derision, they keep going. There’s no denying God has done great things for them, and nothing or no one can steal their joy. They’ve got every reason to laugh and sing. They’re on a happy road.

Which Road

Which road are we on—the mournful one leading from home, or the happy one to a joyful life of freedom and restoration? Are we traveling in silence and fear? Or are we laughing and singing, going on anyhow, no matter how nutty it seems or who’s playing tricks? Since it’s the same road, direction determines the nature of our journey. And we differ from the psalmist in one major aspect: we choose which we way we want to go. When we realize fear, doubt, and oppression are pushing us down a harmful path, we turn around. With determination, we head in the opposite direction, straight toward our dreams.

The Lord has done great things for us. He will continue to do great things for us. He walks with us, talks with us, and tells us we’re His own. The joy we share with Him fills us with laughter. It inspires songs of joy. I have a song. You have one, too. Your song is your weapon. It’s your defense against uncertainty and sorrow. It lifts you above your troubles and celebrates your hope. It bubbles over in your soul and changes your perspective. It enables you to envision your dreams coming into fruition. No one or nothing can steal your joy when you decide to travel the happy road. No one or nothing can silence your song once you’re committed to this path. What others think, say, or do is on them. It has nothing to do with you. Go on anyhow. Choose the happy road. Sing your song.

Choose the happy road. Sing your song.

(Next: Wisdom's Ways)


genevieve said...

This reminds me of the day when God affirmed me as a transgender person. Since then I have lived life openly and without regret or fear.

Tim said...

Genevieve, I'm convinced each of us reaches a turning point in our lives--a moment when we can't deny we're traveling away from who we are, who we were created to be and the purpose God has for us. In my case, it was the realization that harboring resentment toward those who exclude those they don't agree with from the faith was dragging me down a sorry road. Just as you experienced, when I realized God loves and accepts all of His children, I was able to turn around. And my road became a happy, secure one, just as yours did.

As compassionate believers, we must do our all to encourage others to join us on this happy road--to laugh with delight at the great things God has done for them, to sing their songs without fear or hesitation. The more of us who choose to travel the happy road, the more who want to join us will find the courage to do so.

Be blessed, dear friend, and walk on in joy and laughter, singing your beautiful song!


Cathy said...

I found my way here from A Seat At the table blog. And I am so glad that I did. This post says exactly where I'm at. I was very recently on the sad mournful road, living in a marriage of anger and power over. My desire to be an authentic person, living life wholly (holy) has taken me to the road of joy and freedom. My absolute faith, knowing that God has done great things in and for me, leads me on this joy filled journey. There's no turning away from the hope,freedom and love that are filling me with song.
Thank you for this spot on post.

Tim said...

Welcome to Straight-Friendly, Cathy! It's great to hear from you. Your comment speaks both to the courage it takes to turn from a road of sorrow and pain, as well as the rejuvenation we experience once we start traveling the happy road. The laughter and song that have been buried inside us for so long burst forth. Our confidence is restored and our vigor is renewed.

I pray you continue to grow in strength and hope as you travel. Know even as God has done great things in and for you, even greater things lay ahead!

Thank you for adding your witness to this post. It encourages all of us to find and stay on the right road. I hope you'll return often and continue to join our conversation here.