People Get Ready
Whenever I hear the phrase, “People of God” two images are immediately brought to mind. The first is of the child’s hand pantomime. The one where you bring your two hands together, leaving your pointer fingers up to form a steeple and intertwine your remaining fingers. Your thumbs are lined up side to side. I am sure you remember the saying; here is the steeple, open the doors (move your thumbs apart), and here are all the people (after you flip your hands to reveal your intertwined fingers).
The second image is of myself, at a time in my life where I felt divorced from God and very alone in the world because of the choices I had made. It is of me standing in the rain outside the open doors of a church in Portland, Oregon listening to a man with a deep rich baritone voice singing “People Get Ready”. The power of his voice drew me into the shadows of the vestibule. As he sang I felt as if I was observing very tangible evidence of living faith.
I don’t know about you, but I have always looked at praying to God as a conversation in the relationship I have with Him. Relationships are complicated, they involve a multitude of emotions that run the gambit of happiness to despair. Whether the relationship is between yourself and a family member, or a friend, or between professional associates it is often not smooth sailing. I found that for myself, the same holds true in the relationship I have with God.
I have often been unfaithful in my relationship with God. I have chosen to make other things a priority . Whether it was my commitment to my job, to another person, or becoming something other than I was, all my time and energy went to that pursuit rather than my relationship with God. I neglected God. Like Gomar in Hosea, I was an adulteress in pursuing other relationships and things than the one relationship I should have been nurturing and rejoicing in.
At that moment, standing in the vestibule in the church in Portland on a rainy night, I realized that I was the one who walked away from God. I turned my back on him because I thought he had not answered my pleas. The thing is, He had answered them, just not the way I wanted Him to. Like Gomar, I needed to be so removed from the beauty of a loving relationship to understand that no matter my choices God was waiting for me. He was sending people to me so I would know that He never divorced Himself from me… so that I might know not only the beauty of forgiveness but its power. That night was the start of long journey back to God and to those who loved me. It cracked my hardened heart so that the small flame of hope hidden within began to grow with every step back home to God.
It is often a struggle today for me to remember that lesson from 18 years ago. There are so many temptations in the world that encourage me to make God and our relationship a low priority. I’m tempted to give other things in my life a higher priority,. And I wonder why I feel so empty. Maybe you find yourself in the same place. Maybe you find yourself wondering why the newest styles, superficial relationships, promotions, and material goods fail to satisfy. The answer is simple really, these are merely momentary things that do not endure the test of time. A deep relationship with God endures.
Why? Because of Grace. God gives us the space in our relationship to screw up and then welcomes us back. He continues to show us that grace as we repeat the same mistakes over and over again…and He does it each time knowing that we will continue to screw up and He will continue to show us more grace than we deserve. God in his infinite mercy gives us a multitude of second chances even when we, as the“People of God” refuse to make our relationship with Him the priority in our lives. I leave you with this...
“People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith, to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
So people get ready, for the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board’em
There’s hope for all, among those loved the most.
Songwriter: Curtis L. Mayfield
Submitted by Erin Johnson, Midtown Parish Member.