But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:8
The Michigan church where we attend half the year is not a large one. When the pastor had left and the search was on for a new one and the drummer was scheduled to be the guest preacher and the worship leader was taking a well-deserved vacation with his family and the bass player had a camping trip planned for the same weekend, the worship team was shorthanded, to say the least.
Although I usually play a simple “layer” of chords on the keys for worship, I can play the guitar, too, although not as well as I used to. It’s painful to press down hard on the strings with arthritic fingers. Still, when it was strongly hinted that I should lead worship that Sunday with my guitar, I agreed to do it. The perk: I got to pick the music.
I am one who can enjoy and appreciate practically every genre of music, though some more than others. Our worship leader is a young man who usually opts for contemporary style worship, which is fine with me. But the older people who attend that church would love to hear the classic old hymns every once in a while. For this reason when I’m asked to sing an occasional offertory I frequently sing an “oldie,” or even put together a medley of old hymns. The older folks love it.
So, when I was given the reins for that Sunday’s worship, I toyed with the idea of doing classics like “How Great Thou Art,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” especially since those songs don’t require drums.
The worship leader must have caught wind of my plan. He called me on the eve of his family trip to urge me to play contemporary worship songs, lest we have a visitor drop in and think we always sang hymns. I refrained from mentioning that some visitors might actually like hymns and obediently worked on some of the more “hip” songs. That was when the problems started.
After practicing one or two songs my fingers were in so much pain that I didn’t think I’d last a whole service. Meanwhile, it looked as if I would have very few people, if any, on the platform with me. The couple from Nigeria (The husband played piano, the wife sang.) were moving that weekend and would be doing well to get to church at all. The drummer suggested I call Rachel, a local teacher who attended the church and occasionally sang.
When I called her Wednesday, she said she’d love to help out – if she could get over a sore throat.
“Well, Lord, it seems Rachel and I both need healing. If You want me to play the guitar, please heal my fingers, and if You want Rachel to sing, please heal her throat.”
Saturday afternoon my fingers were still aching, and giving no sign of letting up. I didn’t know what to do.
… unless …
I saw the piano sitting invitingly in the corner of the room. With silent apologies to our absent worship leader, I sat down and played “It Is Well With My Soul.” The arpeggios flowed effortlessly and painlessly, as if it hadn’t been years since I’d played them. Suddenly I was at peace about playing the next day. I texted Rachel, along with the drummer, who had said he would sing with me, and told them I – actually, my fingers – had made an executive decision, and we were going for the hymns. As a compromise, I said I would play an updated version of “Amazing Grace” with a new chorus, “My Chains Are Gone” before Communion with the guitar, but that was all the guitar playing my hands could take.
Sunday morning Rachel showed up with a testimony: She had been in the car on her way to school Friday, praying, “Lord, I’ve done everything I can think of for my throat, and none of it has worked. I want to sing Sunday, but I need You to heal me.” By the time she’d arrived at school, her throat had been healed! I was thrilled for her, but had to confess that my fingers had not been healed, hence the list of songs that weren’t “cool.” (Frankly, we aren’t cool, have never been cool, and never will be cool, but I kept that thought to myself.) We began to practice the classic hymns. I was at the piano, and Rachel and the drummer at the other mics, as we sang in three-part harmony. I thought it sounded fine, even though the younger people might roll their eyes at it.
… or would they?
“OH. MY. GOSH!” cried the thirteen-year-old in the sound booth. “You guys sound AWESOME!!!” We smiled, then went on to sing the remaining songs.
“OHMYGOSHOHMYGOSH!!!” squealed our one-girl fan club. “I can’t BELIEVE how AWESOME you sound! You sound like ANGELS!!!” She was literally jumping up and down. I was astonished how much this teenager liked these old songs. I would have expected her to want to hear newer ones.
But then it occurred to me that to her these were new. It also encouraged me to think that maybe the oldsters might not be the only ones to enjoy the worship that morning.
And so, the worship went as planned, not by us, but by the One who perfectly orchestrated it. Interestingly, He did it by healing one of us but not the other. At least not yet. I fully expect that when I get my new body, the fingers will be working perfectly, and I’ll be able to play any music I want, on any instrument I want. Meanwhile, I’m willing to have God’s providence guide me to whatever He wants me to do today.