My Past

Because He Lives

Pink Flowers

“But greater still the calm assurance, that child can face uncertain days because He lives…”

A couple of weeks ago, I was leading worship through song during a typical Sunday morning service at my church, Church on the Way. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened that morning, but I do remember feeling a little less sure of myself during all of rehearsal and through most of the beginning of the service. I have mornings like that- where I just don’t have the confidence, and there’s usually no reason I can nail down other than regular human insecurity. I’ve grown to appreciate these mornings, because those are the days I’m reminded of where my source of gifting, confidence and overall hope comes from. And because that source is God, I’m humbly assured that it is more than ok if I get up there just as I am and sing, even if I can’t bring myself to feel great by the time that 5 minute timer goes off. It’s ultimately not about about how I feel, even though feelings are certainly allowed to be involved. I don’t have to try to set them aside to be someone else for twenty minutes though, and I don’t have to over indulge in my feelings and project that onto everyone else; I’ve been guilty of both. But I can find rest, somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, that God is worthy of the worship that flows His way out of the truths I sing, no matter how good or bad they come out, and that we are to sing those truths as the body of Christ.

The last song in the set for that morning was “Because He Lives.” You know the one… “because he lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone…” I don’t ever remember singing the full song growing up, but the chorus from it was often used at the end of the sermon, the benediction if you will, as we were all instructed to hold hands across the aisle and sing together. It was set to the tempo and time of an irish drinking song, and as children we’d sway our arms back and forth, as if holding an invisible pint of beer.

I re-discovered the song sometime at the beginning of last year, and found the verses to be very useful and captivating, and brought it into our pool of songs for church. I’ve cried a few times singing it, because I’ve always had other people in my mind during the second and third verses, depending on the season and who was suffering.

But, on this particular Sunday a few weeks ago, as we sang the line “But greater still, the calm assurance, that child can face uncertain days because He lives…” I was all of a sudden struck with the reality that this line not only described other people, but it described me. In the few seconds it took to sing that line, the reality of my childhood that I’ve been coming to terms with over the past three years flooded my mind, and I was overcome with not just clarity, but overwhelming gratefulness.

You guys, I’ve buried a lot of my childhood in the sand. As some of you have read my words over the past years, you know that I’ve slowly been sifting through that sand and digging up my childhood and the memories/pain that come with it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been sitting somewhere, whether at home or anywhere else, and a memory I hadn’t thought of in over two decades or a memory I didn’t know I had, comes rushing into my vision. I’ve had desperate moments where I’ve angrily looked up at the ceiling, wondering when God was going to stop the conveyor belt of memories from tumbling into my life. I’ve struggled with feeling that he’s cruel, that he’s put too much on me to work through. I’ve often asked the question, “What is the purpose of all of this?” The easy and half-truth answer is that He’s had me remember and work through things so that I can relate to and help others do the same. And while I believe that’s true, that’s also a cheap answer to me. Is that all?

Singing that line, with all of that reality coming back to me at the same time, I felt God saying “This is why I’ve let you suffer through your memories. All of that stuff you went through- I got you through that because I was and am and will forever be alive. I’m convincing you that I love you, and I’m not going to let you forget it.”

The beautifully devastating weight of that, all in just a few seconds, left me no where to go but to release it through sobs. And I did. I sobbed on that stage in front of everyone, and I couldn’t stop. The best thing happened though- my brothers and sisters kept singing. They sang the whole third verse and into the chorus and we ended together. I cried and they sang, and they led me. A few times I tried to sing again, but I was met with more tears.

I share that, not to point at this sweet moment I had with my church, and leave it at mere sentiment. I share that because as the body took over and continued to sing, I was deeply reminded that I am completely unnecessary. And as I felt that creep in while I sobbed giant, ridiculous tears of gratefulness, I was met with relief.

I am nothing, and He is everything. I deserve death, yet he boisterously showers me with life. It’s never how I expect it, yet it’s always better than what I thought it would be. This child certainly faced many an uncertain day, but He was there inside every moment of it and He’s gotten me here to this moment.

Life is worth the living, just because He lives.

Flashback Friday: Bad Day

YouTube Preview Image

Ya’ll… I KNOW you remember this song. I’m sure some of you hate it as much as some of you love it and feel all 2005 when you hear it.

I have a necessary relationship with “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter.

2005-2006 was pretty rough for this chick. While 2005 was the year I graduated high school (which to this day was one of the most relieving and liberating days of my life), I also went through some rough transitions. Earlier in that year I was broken up with, which just SUCKED SO BAD at the time. It was the worst! And thinking about it now, I feel silly even bringing it up. But at the time, it was so devastating to me. (You can read all about it in my LiveJournal…. if you can find it).

So “Bad Day” along with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” got me through most of that. Oh, and Jesus… I guess. Or maybe it’s better put that Jesus allowed those songs to keep me going, since I really wasn’t going to surrender anything to him, even though I claimed that I was a Christian.

I also did a semester at FIU, which I was not excited about at all. So, 2005 was weird, but kind of normal life. Then 2006 happened. I can look back at 2006 and pinpoint what may have been the beginning of the #RealLife Sanctification process.

My family started falling apart at the seams. It was one of those things I think I always knew was going to happen, and it was like a waiting game to see when the shit would finally hit the fan.

It hit, and the fan flung suffering all over us.

An argument turned into chaos on the front yard which pushed me to slam pictures on the terrazzo tile inside because I couldn’t contain my sorrow  and rage anymore. My sister disappearing into the dark night as my brother cried in the garage while begging me not to go stay at Jessica’s house.

(It is really hard for me to share those last two sentences, because it forces me to relive them. I’m still forgiving myself for leaving my little brother in that hell). 

The rest of that year is still one of the most painful years I’ve ever known (although the past 6 months are really trying to top that). The chaos only kept on coming, to the point where my mom and I never knew if everyone was going to be alive by the next day. People at church treated me and my sister like outsiders. My life was literally falling apart and all I got was a lot of religious platitudes.

(Disclaimer: if we went to church together during this time, please don’t hear that as a condemnation on you or our Church. I was just as guilty of doing to others what ended up happening a little bit to me, so there is no judgement coming from me. We’re all sinners in need of grace). 

For the sake of everyone’s dignity, I won’t share much more details of that year. But this song… this song stuck with me. Back when Motorola flip phones were cool, “Bad Day” was my ringtone for everyone. I just wanted to hear it anytime, all the time.

One of the only redeeming moments of 2006 was when I had to spend the day in Downtown Miami to 1) go to court over a parking ticket and 2) visit my dad in a psychiatric ward. So pretty much the two worst things ever. After court, I had time to kill, so I took the Metro Rail to Dadeland mall, and let someone put makeup on me in Macy’s. I don’t even know why I did that, but it made me feel better. I got back on the Metro Rail to go to the hospital, and my phone kept ringing…

Cause you had a bad day
You’re taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don’t know
You tell me don’t lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don’t lie
You’re coming back down and you really don’t mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

I didn’t answer it. I wanted to keep hearing the song. In that moment, listening to “Bad Day” on the Metro Rail with my face fresh with makeup and strangers all around me, I felt like I was going to make it to 2007. I even started giggling, and said, “how bout you’ve had a bad year,” and giggled some more.

So, it’s 2014, and I’m still alive!

Maybe one day, ya’ll can convince me to talk about my closet ZAO obsession in 10th grade.

What songs have helped carry you through life?