So these ideas (you know, from Part 1 wherein I sang Amazing Grace with a naked stranger) began pinging around inside my head the other morning as I tooled around in my car between the bank and Target. In an effort to refocus my thoughts from Twitter, kid worries, my thesis and job woes onto Something Bigger than myself I turned the dial from NPR to the Christian station (which I can tolerate only about 10% of the time due to my saccharin intolerance, I’m a bad Christian).
<An aside.> But back up a minute. I’ve been inviting God into my writing life more. Okay, more begging than “inviting” him—to invade, pervade, take over my writing process. This practice was born in the midst of some pretty paralyzing writer’s block a couple months ago, and I’ve found that it has helped. But careful what you ask for, right? <End of aside.>
A turn of the thumb and forefinger, and lo, a David Crowder Band song shifted my attention to this idea about love—God’s love—that I hold to be true. Singing along into my imaginary steering wheel microphone elevated me, sweeping up my spirit, whipping with it my emotions and thoughts into an epiphanic dust devil.
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
LOVES LIKE A HURRICANE, I AM A TREE? <holy swoon>
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
. . . And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
[Swept, I'm swept, I'm bent, like a tree and this really happens as I steer between Chase and Target]
And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all
Oh, how he loves us oh, Oh, how he loves us…
I’m feelin’ it. I’m lifting my right hand, singing, with heart and soul and voice, having some church up in my minivan. God, He loves US! just wow!
And on the horizon of this ecstasy a giant writing prompt blob looms. I don’t veer, don’t get out of its way. I let it gobble me up in its path: The “we” who sing this very song on Sunday mornings in church, while singing, become proprietary with this love. We hoard it at the same time we can barely believe it ourselves, the small portion we can grasp even as it spills from little hands. From our little human-sized praise bubbles we proclaim, Abba loves ME ME ME, with the subtext not THEM THEM THEM.
That idea blob, which is morphing into this blogpost, began to take shape in my mind, forming into mental notes for me to assemble later on a page. I thought about those Christians, how all those “other,” churchier people tend to claim, deep down, that God’s love is reserved more for them, a blessing for their devotion, that it doesn’t apply to the ones they deem out of God’s will. They may *say* God loves everyone, but they really view “those other people” as more worthy of judgment than blessing—people who are gay, divorced, atheists, unfaithful, the people who advocate for the gay, the divorced, the unbelieving. People who aren’t them.
And I’m swept up with the compulsion to announce to *those Christians* this: that God loves “us” means God loves “THEM” too! Whoever “them” is to the singer of the song, proclaimer of this truth (“how He loves us”). Gosh, I will write this down, I’m thinking in my car. Thanks God for this epiphany, which maybe can help persuade those judgmental people who hate on my gay friends, maybe I can craft something that in writing will communicate that David Crowder’s song applies to the people not in the pews too.
So I’m in my car, my writer engine revving with ideas, and a dear friend, an atheist I love and admire enters my mind and I see that she, too, is covered in that wide blanket of love even if she doesn’t believe and even if she finds it irritating that I do. I can sing the song at the top of my lungs with her in my mind, lifting beautiful-M to the throne of the Most High on my quavery alto, and she can’t do a thing about it! God doesn’t just love “us” so. He loves HER too.
This calls for prayer.
Me, to God, at the stoplight to turn toward Target: Thank you, God, for this idea, these thoughts, these fresh perspectives. I will write about them. God, help me to remember these concepts so I can write about them later when I get home. [Oh. The arrogance.]
God, to me, as I pull into my parking space: Sure thing, Beth. And while I have your attention…
I pulled into the expanse of Target parking feeling relieved to have a clear writing direction for a change so I wouldn’t have to just sit there later curing writing time staring at a blank screen. I turned off the engine but left the keys in the ignition. I wanted to sit there in that sacred space and enjoy the rest of the song, when a nearby unfolding scene bumped the needle out of my groove. In my line of vision a woman, cig hanging out her mouth, pulled into a Handicap parking spot. Yes, she did have a tag, but she was smoking and looking pretty agile. I sat there and watched her get out of the car and for all my strength didn’t hop out, chase her down and tell her her legs or back must be feeling better. She practically skipped to the door. I fumed. Urrrg. Grrrr. The nerve of people! When that damn song rushed back at me like an irony-shaped boomerang. Oh, how he loves that handicap fraudulent woman oh, how he loves her. … I laughed at myself, burned up inside over my overinflated sense of justice, and went in to shop.
A half hour later, I steered my cardinal-red cart loaded with first world necessities when I noticed the handicap tag faker’s car again and realized she would have to make it into this part of my “inspired” blogpost. I had heard a song in a new way to share with people who (I felt) might need to have their perspectives tweaked, and God decided to tweak mine. He was good enough to remind me that as open and accepting as I think I am, there are plenty of people who make my internal list of judgement-worthy humans I find difficult (or impossible) to love. And who knows — maybe handicap spot skipper is recovering from chemo. Maybe she has a family member with ALS. Maybe she’s seconds away from needing a trashcan. Maybe … who knows? It’s none of my business. My only business where she is concerned is to show her love.
The song on the radio when I turned the key to leave sealed the deal, but, well, I didn’t make bold enough mental notes to remember the title. I was too busy praying for God to help me be a better lover. Steve Curtis Chapman’s catchy Love Take Me Over will suffice, its message just as effective as the song I forgot.
This is what I’m sure of, I can only show love
When I really know how loved I am
When it over takes me, then it animates me
Flowing from my heart into my hands
Love, take these words that I’m speaking
Love, take these thoughts that I’m thinking
Love, take me over
Love, fill up all of my space and
Love, stand right here in my place
Love, hear this prayer that I’m praying
Love, take me, Love, take me over
Love, take me over.