A Song for the Road Back
It’s 2001, all over again. No, not exactly. But, the fear, the uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, the concern about our loved ones? They’re much the same. Once again, the world has come to a sudden stop. Once again, all that matters is life and death – how we will survive and how precious the lives around us really are.
And, just like after 9/11, I haven’t once thought, “I wish I had what so-and-so has.” I haven’t stepped on a scale and cursed my fate. Or gossiped, or judged anyone, or complained about the petty slights that normally get under my skin.
I’d bet that you haven’t, either. I’d bet that you’ve called the people in your life and told them that you love them. I’d bet you’ve prayed for those who are alone, the weak, the vulnerable. I’d bet that you’ve had a silent moment or two of gratitude because you’ve got shelter, food on your table and at least one person in this world who cares if you’re okay.
What’s more, united against a common threat to our safety and security, we are all a little more willing to set aside our differences, to look at each other as allies, not competitors, and certainly not as enemies.
I know this, because that’s how we felt after 9/11.
Too bad it didn’t last. When things calmed down, we reverted to our old, petty ways. Comparing. Competing. Complaining.
And now, years later, our circumstances have, yet again, pushed us to do what doesn’t come naturally. It’s like the huge rush of motivation we get when we’re faced with a wedding or class reunion. For a short time, we find it much easier to cut the sugar and hit the gym. Yet, when the big day is over, we go back to our old, hungry, lazy, chubby selves. It’s just not natural for us to stick with that intense routine.
We go back.
Remember when Moses was passing the torch to Joshua, saying goodbye to his people, and getting ready to go home with the Lord? (See Deuteronomy 31.) You’d think that God, in speaking with Moses, would give him a break and just say, “Nice job. Come home. The kids will be fine. Joshua’s got this.” But, no. Instead, God tells Moses the lousy news that his people would fall – and fall quickly – into idolatry, forsaking Him again and again, until the Lord would be forces to destroy them.
In other words, they’d go back. They’d fall into their old habit of worshipping false gods. They’d sin. It was only natural.
In Deuteronomy 31:21, God says to Moses, “I know.” “I know,” He says, “even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” In the NIV, He says, “I know what they are disposed to do.” But other versions make the Hebrews sound even more devious. In the NASB, “I know their intent.” In the New Living Translation, “I know their intentions.” In the Message, “I know what they’re scheming to do.” In the NCV, “I know what they plan to do.” Only the NRSV makes the Hebrews’ sin sound anything less than intentional, “I know what they are inclined to do,” says the Lord.
And what they’re inclined to do is go back.
So, what does God do? (See Deuteronomy 31:30-32:43.) He gives His people a song. A song to teach their children. A song that will remind them of their heritage. A song that will testify against them when they go back to their old ways. A song that will, someday, be remembered, and will call God’s people to repent.
2020 isn’t pretty. We all want this mess to be over – and over soon. But when life goes back to normal, how long it will be before we go back, too? Back to comparing, competing, complaining. Back to the small, shallow, petty concerns, back to the idols that keep us from fully embracing what God has for us?
So, now, ask yourself, what song is God giving you? What words of Truth is He trying to imprint upon your heart and mind? What message is the Lord trying to convey to you about what matters? Can you take it in? Hold onto it? Write it down? Use it to center yourself, later, when this experience fades into memory? Use it to hold yourself accountable, so you don’t “go back?” Or, more likely, use it to hold yourself accountable, so that, when you do “go back,” you don’t stay there?
Take notes. Take notice. God is speaking in the midst of this chaos. Don’t miss His voice. Lean in. Listen for a song.
written by Major Christine Rock, Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries, Empire Division, USA East