Isaiah 40

Even youths grow tired and weary,
  and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
  will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
  they will run and not grow weary,
  they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

I skipped out of my regular church this Sunday. I’d been out with a friend the night before and she convinced me to return to my former church with her for a visit. A mutual friend of ours, Chris, was leading worship, and when I got there I noticed the sound man from my Christmas album was playing drums and the player from my Trusting You album was playing bass. My original drummer was up there doing vocals and Mary, who still sings with me, was doing backup vocals. Chris himself appears on three of my albums playing electric guitar. It was quite the musical dream team morning at Lake Country Church.

“You stacked the band!” I said to Chris, after the service, then I asked him how things were in his life.

“I think I’m the eagle,” he said to me. “I’m just done. I’m mad at God, and I’m not going to hide it.”

He was referring to the day’s sermon. There had been a guest speaker, and the sermon had been taken from Isaiah 40, and I, too, related to the message. The speaker told of breaking her back on a ski hill, how it had been the most painful experience of her life, and how, hopped up on drugs after the surgery which implanted titanium rods into her spine, she hadn’t cared about anything — and had said so to a colleague who had made the mistake of asking for assistance. 

That morning I could relate, both to Chris’ anger at God and to the metaphorical concept of breaking your back. Sometimes, after all, it seems like things are just piled on and piled on in life until eventually the bones holding you upright just have to snap. On the drive into church that morning I had been angrily asking God, “Why?” I’d just gotten things in my life where I wanted them, where I liked them, and had just started to trust and feel safe in the new places where He had me when Bam! Everything shifted out from under me once again. “Why. God,” I had demanded, “Why would You do this to me?!”

Eagles, according to Brenda Lee, molt. And when they do, they enter a period akin to human depression. They can’t fly, they walk like turkeys, they move themselves into dark valleys and that is where they live. They won’t hunt, and so during this phase of their existence other eagles drop food to them from the sky, and that is how they stay alive.

No sooner had Chris told me of his disquiet than we were joined by one of the congregation members. This man likes to sit in the front row on Sundays and when he enjoys the worship he will loudly proclaim, “Rock and Roll!” He sustained a brain injury at some point in his life, and the result seems to be that his filters have been removed, but so has all malice and darkness. He is a positive light in the world. He also is a boon to worship leaders attempting to lead. When he proclaims Rock and Roll, you know you are doing the job well. Today he wants Chris’ advice. He wants to learn bass, and he wants to know which music store is the best place to purchase an instruction book.

“Wentworth Music,” Chris tells him, and thus ensues a sweetly commical discussion on the merits of Wentworth, the best of their staff, the cost of the book. The questions are non-stop and Chris answers with patience. Whatever he may be experiencing in his private life, he doesn’t show it to this man, who is really, with all his questions, expressing his hero worship of Chris. Soon, though, he becomes direct. “We all like you,” he says, and those of us privy to the conversation take up our cue.

“We do, Chris!” we chime in, “We all like you!” Chris nods almost imperceptibly as those of us around him start to grin.

“We all think you are great,” says his admirer. 

“We do!” We all chorus, “We think you are great!”

Chris is smiling now, in the way you smile when your friends all start in on you at once. 

“See, Chris,” says his friend, “You’ve even got the girls!”

“Oh, you do, Chris!” We say. I know my grin is slightly wicked now, and Mary is laughing openly. But the mood is lightened. You can see it in his face. It is hard to hold onto the darkness when the world around you, who knows you and loves you, refuses to stand by and stand down.

“What more could you want?” says our friend, then adds, “Except more girls!” 

“Uh huh,” Chris grunts now, but he is playing along. Our work here is done. One more molted eagle fed. 

I drive home knowing I was meant to be at that service on this Sunday. I was meant there to be for myself, so I could accept that sometimes our backs get a bit broken and it hurts and we have to heal and let those around us feed us for awhile. I had to be there for Chris, because he needed to be fed. It is amazing to realize that, because I am a human and not an eagle, I can be both needy and a need-meeter at the same time. That morning, I needed to observe God in action, using the least likely sources to work His magic moments of refreshing. If God will do that for Chris, He will do that for me, and on the days you need Him to, He will do that for you, too.

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