The normally quiet downtown area was bustling with activity. Booths selling everything from vegetables to crafts to masterpieces of glass art lined the street on both sides. The people milled through like ants, swarming the vendors. The sounds of bartering, of laughter, and the hearty shouts of locals greeting familiar faces mixed together to form that unique music that is the sound of community. Some stopped near our spot, basking in the unusually warm weather, enjoying good old-fashioned artery-clogging food.
Music abruptly blared from the loudspeakers, signaling the start of our local teen vocal competition. Repositioning my lawn chair on the sidewalk to better see the makeshift stage, I watched the contestants file on to begin the show. A young friend of mine had made it here, to the semi-finals, and the competition was stiff indeed. It was anyone’s guess as to who would be eliminated this day. When her turn came, and I watched her ascend the steps in her black and white evening gown, my heart pounded. As she took the mike and settled in, my breath caught. She was so lovely, her smile wide and confident. Her chosen song was an old beloved hymn, How Great Thou Art.
The opening stanza was one I’d heard a thousand times as a kid. But I had never heard it like this before. The activity and noise of the festival seemed to cease as her voice rang out. Pure and strong, it literally halted people in their tracks. As she sang of the majesty of God and His creation, I watched the crowd.
A man in a black Iron Maiden t-shirt stood casually in the middle of the path of vendor’s booths, his weathered face intent on the stage and the angelic young woman singing. Sitting on the padded seat on her walker, a massive woman who had been watching the proceedings with great enthusiasm was suddenly still. A tall young woman, whose half-shaved head of raven black hair stood out in the crowd of ordinary small-town folks, worked a wad of gum behind blood red lips. Her buzzing energy that I had noted moments before died down to a hum as she studied my friend on the stage.
As the melody swept on, the message of God’s grace flowed loud and clear through the crowd of onlookers; a celestial love song to the worn, the lame, and the lost. For this one small moment, time stilled and there was nothing but the sweet voice of this beautiful child of the King, reflecting the glory of her mighty God. I was captivated.
The end of the show later revealed that my friend had been eliminated from the competition. As I expressed my condolences and admiration for her performance, she shared something with me. With her face radiating joy, she explained that she had originally planned that hymn for the finals, should she make it that far. But she had decided to change it and sing it that day in case she didn’t get the opportunity. She didn’t want to miss the chance to share the news of God’s lavish love for His people. And in glorifying Him, she had accomplished what she had set out to do.
I thought of all who had paused to hear her song. All those people who heard that day how desperately loved they are by their Creator. Even those of us who belong to Jesus groan for that love and for the day when it will be fully tangible. That poignant reminder of who He is, what He has done for us, and what we have to look forward to in Him was like a refreshing rain pouring over us. I felt humbled that the God of the universe had chosen to put this daughter of His there, at that moment, for the purpose of singing us a love song.
I pondered her attitude and the message that was shared that day. I realized that there will always be a more skilled singer, wittier writer, graceful athlete, or more capable homeschooler. There will always be someone who prays with more fervor, who is smarter, or better looking. But it doesn’t really matter who wins the earthly prize as long as we are running the race for His glory.
Thank you Lord for the many ways You remind us of Your love. Let me remember that You have placed me in this time, in this place, to show the people in my sphere how much You adore them. Let me be a reflection of You. May I run this race with only that in mind. Amen.
“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17, NLT)
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23, HCSB)
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11, NLT)