There is this song I have always loved to sing.
Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be His name...
One of the choruses of the song is "You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name..."
So when I have heard it on the radio or at church, I just blindly sing along. My kids can probably sing alot of it just from singing loudly (and badly) in the car...
Then a couple years ago, Mark and I went to an incredible concert. Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. United Tour. Ironically, in Tulsa. It was an incredible concert. Two of my favorite singers. I always enjoy their concerts. Together...wow. It was just amazing.
Even more amazing, this concert was one of Chapman's first tours after losing his five year old daughter in a car accident. One of his sons accidentally hit her in their driveway. Her name was Maria, and she was from China. I remember the night I learned about Maria. Having my own little Maria a room away...well, my heart hurt for the Chapman family.
One of my strongest memories from this concert is listening to Chapman sing "He gives and takes away..." Suddenly those words had a totally different meaning. I cried through the whole song. It has never meant the same thing to me since.
Friday night a tragedy struck our community. Three local high school students were leaving a concert in Tulsa. John Mayer. I have to admit, I had to look him up. I have heard him without knowing I have. Anyway, they were attempting to turn around when their vehicle was struck by a truck.
One student died at the scene. I didn't know her, but it has taken no time to find out what kind of person she was. Micayla Patterson lived her life to the fullest. Even more, she lived it for Christ. And while I believe she is in heaven basking in God's glory and would not for a second think of returning to our world, my heart is SO heavy for the family left here to grieve, for the many friends who already miss her smile and her spirit. You can see just a glimpse of her life right here...
The other two students are in the hospital. One of them was a kindergarten student in my class once upon a time. I won't go into much detail but I will say that she is a precious child (young woman these days I suppose). She also has an amazing mature faith (from what I can tell) and will need that faith for the rest of her life to lean on after this. My heart has ached thinking about her. My students are my students for life. They have a place in my heart. When one hurts, I hurt. I don't want to sound noble. It really isn't. It is part of being a teacher. It is obvious after talking to another teacher she had later in school that this is just part of who we are. It also says alot about D. She left an impression. Her Facebook page is filled with countless messages of love and prayers.
The last report I have heard (all second hand) is that her condition is improving. That does not stop my tears from flowing. And they have all weekend.
All this to say, this morning at church, the last song we sang was "Blessed be the name of the Lord..."
Ugh. There are those words written by Matt Redman...
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be your name...
Then a little further in the song,
When the darkness closes in,
Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Singing those words today had a completely different meaning yet again. One family I don't know but cannot get out of my mind is experiencing that "take away" part. It is one of the deepest fears as a parent. I know my kids are "on loan" from God. They aren't really mine. Yet, I live my life expecting that they will be here long after I will. But sometimes, for whatever reason, He gives and takes away. For the others who remain here, friends and family of Micayla and the other students, they are on that road of suffering. Through this all, we are to CHOOSE to say, "Blessed be Your name..."
There are many things in life I don't understand. I am not afraid to say to God, "Why, God? Why did this happen?" I know that sometimes I will see the answer in time. Other times, I have to trust that there are things I just won't understand with my human mind and heart. It doesn't matter. God is who He is. 'Nuff said. (I realize, easier said than believed)
Some days the praise flows easily. When I watch the sunset, spend the day at the beach with my family, listen to the laughter of my children, it is so easy for my lips and tongue to sing, "Blessed be Your name." It is natural to me to praise He who created these moments.
But what about on the road to suffering? What about when two teachers in your school find out within months of each other that they are battling cancer? What about a friend who says goodbye to her husband as he leaves for inservice not realizing that it is their last goodbye? How about when a singer, completely devoted to God, cradles his daughter in his arms as her spirit leaves due to a tragic accident? And what about when three well-loved students, having the time of their lives, leave a concert and moments later are struck by a truck in their vehicle?
How about then?
He gives and takes away.
So here is my question, to both you and me...
What will we choose to say?
Will we choose to sing "Blessed is Your Name?"