My guitarist and I talked about how the only reason they *wouldn't* come back would be out of embarrassment. But they've done nothing wrong. They have nothing to be ashamed of. An unspeakable horror happened to their family that hit us all right in the heart. My guitarist said that if any of us were stripped of our clothes in the sanctuary and exposed for all the sins we've individually committed, we'd all be embarrassed, for God doesn't grade our sins as being better or worse than other sins. We're all there to praise God by God's grace, not because we're all angels. He also reminded me about God's capacity for forgiveness: if the man who murdered the baby truly repents for his sins and asks God's forgiveness, God promises to grant it to him. Like I just said, God's not up there ranking our sins.
The bassist said that he's been overwhelmed by the love and support the congregation has shown his family through emails and phone calls this week, so I prayed on it and this is what the end result was:
Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.
Dear J & S,
I come to you tonight in unity and fellowship, my brother and sister in Christ Jesus. I've been wanting to reach out to you, but didn't know if it would be appropriate or accepted. We've only known one another for a couple of months, J, but your family struck me immediately as one of amazing faith, enthusiastic praise and admirable trust in the power of God's love. What you, as an individual and as a musician, have brought to the Praise Band is a wonderful reminder as to WHY we play for the congregation. You brought the faith aspect and the glory to Jesus back into the band at a time when we were all battling egos and conflicting artistically. Your presence, speaking for myself and what you and I have shared, has put the Praise back into the Praise Band. For that alone, I am grateful to know you and have the utmost respect for you as an exemplary Christian.
It's hard to think of the right words to say to anyone facing remarkable grief, not wanting to sound like a cliche, not wanting to overstate the obvious, not wanting to compound your existing sorrow with seemingly glib, bland expressions of sympathy. Your loss is one of remarkable circumstance, something which just can't be adequately addressed.
God promises us, in that old saying, that He'll never throw at us more than we can handle in one day. That He'll see us through. Sometimes, though, it feels like God breaks that promise and we are overwhelmed with the challenges that we face. Yet through those experiences, God ultimately strengthens us. He solidifies our faith while challenging our very core. His plans aren't necessarily congruent with ours, which is more than frustrating. It's maddeningly difficult. Somehow, though, through fervent prayer and constant grace, we make it. We don't deserve it; it's His gift to us through His unfailing love.
My prayer for your family has been that God continues to give you strength and what I prayed for most was that you would return to the loving fold of your St. Paul family. We *are* your brothers and sisters in the Lord. It'd be fruitless for me to say, "I'll do whatever I can to help you," or "if you need anything, feel free to call on me," because frankly, I wouldn't know what to say or do to give you peace other than to emphasize to you that your family is in my constant thought and prayer.
B called me tonight, to let me know that you wanted to play with the band next weekend. That *was* something I'd been praying for that God provided. My personal feeling is that continuing to praise Him via the band is a positive, healthy step towards your healing. That coming to worship with us is vital and to assure you that we welcome you without pretense and with open hearts. Church is the ultimate space of acceptance and love.
It was my turn to pick out the songs for next weekend, and I was having a difficult time picking out music that wasn't bass-centric, that went along with the Bible readings for the weekend, because I assumed we'd be playing without you for the time being, at least. So difficult that I had to surrender the song choices back to B. One of the songs that I was able to pick out, that I chose before (baby's name) passed away, was "We Want To See Jesus Lifted High." It's one of our most upbeat songs, during which B plays a couple of wicked guitar solos, and the congregation really gets into it. We're still going to do that number next weekend, with you on bass, because it is, after all, as you say, all about the Lord. We are there to generate enthusiasm towards Christ, and I, for one, am ecstatic that you've chosen to join us for the service.
On a personal note, I wanted to tell you, though this may be strange to hear, that I received a very valuable, miracle gift as a result of (baby's name)'s passing. It opened a door towards healing for me of a very difficult, traumatic experience I went through that ended a few months ago. I believe, as I believe with all connections, that God places people and events in our lives for very specific reasons at specific times when we need to learn lessons the most. I won't elaborate on what happened to me, for it is immaterial, but know that baby opened for me a psychological floodgate I was unable to face until today in therapy and during a talk with my Stephen minister from St. Paul. For that, I'm overcome with thanks to God and it gives (baby's name) a unique, special place in my heart.
Another verse that has always spoken to me:
Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I look forward to worshiping with you this weekend, should we attend the same service, and to playing beside you next weekend. All for the glory of God.
My heart wishes you, J &S, peace amid trial, grace amid sorrow, and strength amid doubt. Have faith. Have hope. He will not abandon you and neither will your St. Paul family.
With love in Christ,