Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Amazing Grace

You know the song; it’s the most popular hymn of all time. It also happens to be my mother’s most disliked hymn! Sounds sacrilegious, doesn’t it? She didn’t like it because it was overplayed. And yet every time I hear this song, my first thought is of Mom.

I think about the way she rolled her eyes in church when I was little and we heard the first few notes of “Amazing Grace.” I remember how her rolling eyes turned into sighs and slight grimaces in later years. I also think about a story from the last person who ever visited her before she died.

One of the pastors from her church stopped by the hospice center to see Mom. The pastor told us this a few days later, as we were planning her memorial service. The pastor said she sang a song for Mom in that last visit. My sister and I asked which song, and the pastor said, “Amazing Grace.” We laughed and snorted and the pastor looked strangely at us. We explained how much Mom hated that song. The pastor said she never would have guessed because Mom just sat in her bed like it was the nicest song ever. Then the pastor said, “That’s just like Brenda. She would never make someone feel uncomfortable or unappreciated. She was gracious even in her last days.”

“Amazing Grace” also holds tender memories for me because it was a song my dad loved. It was played on bagpipes at his graveside service (by a bagpiper from his alma mater, who also happened to be named Jackson).

For many years, “Amazing Grace” has been a source of tears for me. If we sing it at church, I can hardly get four notes into the song before I have to stop singing because tears have clogged my throat. Our church usually sings Chris Tomlin’s version, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” which is even more difficult for me to hear because it reminds me that my parents and brother are gone and free from their chains. While that’s a happy thought, it’s hard to be happy when I miss them so deeply.

And then *today, on the way home from work, Chris Tomlin’s version was on the radio. The song was halfway through when I stopped singing along and came to a stunning realization: I wasn’t crying! And then I wracked my memory and tried to remember the last time I cried when I heard the song. You know what? I can’t remember.

I thank my Savior for that. He has healed my heart in such an unexpected way. Before you go thinking life is hunky-dory and I’m “over” my grief, let me elaborate: Jesus hasn’t healed my broken heart in the sense of restoring it to pre-loss status. He has healed my heart in the sense of taking the shattered pottery and fitting it back together. There are still cracks, and some pieces that went missing and can’t ever be replaced. But those cracks allow His light to shine through, and now my pottery heart is leaky and drippy and spills a lot more mess these days. I’ve come to find I like it that way.

Thank you, Jesus, for soothing and redeeming my pain so it isn’t quite as sharp anymore. I didn’t even realize you were still working on me, but now I know the “work” never ceases. You are constantly remodeling, reforming, and shining me up so I can reflect Your image in my soul. I am so grateful that You didn’t give up on me, and that you think my broken pieces are worth restoration. Amen.

*Footnote: Today is the anniversary of the last time I saw my brother alive. September 26 is the date I have traditionally started my month-long mourning period for him. It’s just like God to take a hard anniversary and paint it in a new light, giving me insight into how He’s changed my life. He picked today for a reason, of course.

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