The sanctuary at Countryside Church wore various earthy shades of brown from the flattened carpet to the honey-toned benches, but it brought a little heaven to me that Sunday afternoon. Sitting somewhere on the far left, I listened awestruck as Oasis Chorale washed my ears and heart with ethereal beauty. It was the first time that I, a preteen, had heard this caliber of music live. I was in love. I remember a delicious Latin piece entitled “Lux” with many intertwining beams of sound and a soloist with a full, clear voice. Her name was Ginger.
Years later, looking through the CD selection at my local Christian bookstore, I found Ginger’s face. While she’ll most likely never know it, she and her siblings introduced me to “I Commit My Love to You” by Twila Paris.
I nearly posted this song several times this year, but each time I felt unworthy. I saw and heard of so many fault lines of division. I wanted to sing the song and mean it. I want unity in the Church of Christ. But opinions, selfishness, pride, and self-righteousness threaten to fragment even my closest relationships.
Could I really share this song, knowing that I harboured annoyance inside me or felt cheated by another person?
What does it mean to be unified? Does it mean we never disagree, feel hurt, or get angry with others?
Years ago, I visited a pioneer village with my classmates. We paused outside the blacksmith’s shop and watched him heat the iron to a glowing orange. His hammer zinged and tiny sparks flew into the air. Gradually, intricate décor pieces and horse shoes emerged under the pounding of his sooty hands.
Solomon, that ever-wise king who still made foolish choices, wrote this proverb:
Call it stress, pandemic fatigue, grief–God has allowed life to burn us, to heat us to glowing orange. It only makes sense that when we collide with those around us, sparks fly. We feel the friction, but what if that’s exactly what God intends?
In Jewish culture, men gather to study the Scriptures. They read a passage and argue for hours about the interpretation. Left to themselves, they’d veer in one direction or another, but hammering it out, they can find the good and true.
What if division is actually caused by an unwillingness to ask the hard questions in an honest attempt to understand each other? Could it be division is the walking away from our differences, the making of our left and right camps, our pro and anti groups?
What if friction and frustration are not signs of division but are actually the sparks of the good and hard hammering of the Lord?
Could sparks actually be a precursor of unity?
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.I Peter 1:7
I commit to loving, to asking the hard questions, to begging for the grace to swallow my pride and hear you out. “Brother, I commit my love to you.” One day, we will be able to say:
For You, O God, have proved us: You have tried us, as silver is tried. . . . we went through fire and through water: but You brought us out into a wealthy place.Psalm 66:10