I haven’t been very quiet about how the song, It Is Well With My Soul, has affected me since my son’s death six years ago. It has been instrumental in my spiritual healing. In my brokenness, I have cried out to God to please send me a sign that my son is with Him. In the beginning, I was desperate to know that my son’s action (if that was truly how he died) did not send him to hell. My mind was in such a confused and chaotic state. While I was desperately disappointed and angry with God that He had not answered my prayers about the safety and health of my son, I would soon be as equally elated and surprised that God would answer my pleadings for peace about Brandon’s eternal soul.
Because of my fragile human state, because of my humanness, because of my ability to forget, because I am prone to seasons of terrible grieving, because I miss my son every single day….because God loves me…..I am the recipient of a song that sings to me anew upon the breath of God.
Last week I read a post that began with the David Phelps rendition of It Is Well With My Soul https://truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/it-is-well-with-my-soul/. It happens to be my favorite one of all the recorded versions of this wonderful hymn. No coincidence….only Godcidence. I would be reminded of the song’s poignant meaning and its composer. I never tire of reading about Horatio Spattford’s own tragedy and how he was able to still give God the glory in his own words through song. I have only begun following Wally Fry’s blog recently. His writings are touching truths that able me to understand better those things that have sometimes been confusing, most especially in the fog of grief.
Yes, if you haven’t already guessed by now, I am leading to another unexpected sign that God sent in a most awesome way…as only God will do….this past Sunday, September 6th. First I must explain that my husband and I have not gone to church…our church of 22 years since last November. There had been a host of reasons building for this inaction over the course of six years, since our return to our home town right after Brandon passed. When we made the decision not to go there anymore we lapsed in going to any church at all for a while. I was quite content not being ‘out there’ in my grief and pain. We have watched church tele-pastors and studied with the Day of Discovery, gleaning from different devotionals and other Christian materials on our own. Needless to say, that does not take the place of communion with other believers. As a church goer for most of my life, I have missed all that has been a part of that life since our decision to depart. I have always been involved in some capacity in the ministries of the church i.e., Sunday School teacher, Youth Choir director, Administrative Board secretary, choir member, volunteer, Stephens Minister, Vacation Bible School teacher, various committees member and leader, etc…. I did all this because it is important to me to find purpose inside my church, as well as, outside its walls. All for my love of Christ and not for the love of works.
The Sunday before last we decided to go visit a small church near our home but on our way I felt uneasy. We turned around and came home. This past Sunday, September 6th, we went through with our plans of attending the small, old, Methodist church in Florala, Alabama. It smelled of wood and old hymnals. The front of the church was unassuming with only a brass cross hanging in front of old red velvet curtains where what looked to be a baptismal. The choir loft had pews that faced each other as in the churches of yore. The rafters of exposed heavy beams arched over the congregation and made for an echoed sound as the music and voices were amplified by its hollowness. We were pleased that the people were all friendly and welcomed us. The attendance was lower than usual as is the case on any holiday. There must have been around twenty five or thirty people, including the young pastor. The first Sunday of each month is when the Methodist church observes communion. I had felt terrible for not being a part of the very sacrament where God first ‘sang’ “It Is Well…” to me those many times at the altar at our ‘old’ church. I so wanted to hear Him again…but what was the chance of that happening for me again since being a “lapsed sinner” all this past year? The holiness of communion is where God had chosen to remind me of His love for my son and for me. In my heart, I felt that somehow I had tainted that holiness by not attending.
My husband and I found our seat and shared a bulletin with the agenda for the service. I read the first page and moved on to the next. I could hardly contain myself when I reached the bottom of the page where it was noted that today’s hymn before taking communion was….you guessed it…”It Is Well With My Soul.” I quickly pointed it out to my husband and we exchanged that oh so familiar “you’ve got to be kidding” look that we have shared so many times in the last six years. Not only that but the entire sermon was based on the song and its author…how the song came to be and by whom!! I cannot adequately express my excitement…my peace….my joy….my assurance….my love for my Father who loves me so much that His mercy is never ending. That I, Dale, could not taint His holiness even if I tried.
I sang the song without tears but with a broad, all-knowing smile on my face. While some people may be skeptical about receiving signs from God, I have personally experienced the wonders of such. I am the recipient of His favor and blessings even though I am not worthy. No one can steal my joy about how God has ministered to me in the face of my brokenness, in my doubt, during my faith crisis, questioning and guessing….all of this. I know that I know that I know. I am too excited not to share this with the world. I have to tell someone!! I believe that to not bear witness and share this would be a sin. I will keep singing to the top of my voice as long as I am able.
Thanks be to God forever and ever.