I had my eyes closed for the first two songs. By closing my eyes I could block out distractions and transport myself to the comfort of the most familiar worship setting I knew – the inside of my eyelids. As I sang I thought about the life that the Lord has led me through thus far. Memories flitted through my mind, each one adding a stroke to God’s masterful painting of my life with him, the first section of which I was now surveying in awe and gratitude. I was brought back to my living room during my first year of being a follower of Christ, standing in the dark glow of the outside streetlamp through the windows, in total vulnerability and surrender to the God I imagined before me; feeling the most serene and content peace as I stood alone with him. I remembered the moments of paralyzing weakness, sobbing on the floor of the laundry room so that my family wouldn’t hear me, desiring only that God would. I thought of my darkest times, when I was for a season separated from God; the ultimate pain of being alone, without my closest confidant, and my truest love. And then I was brought to the memory of weeping uncontrollably at an HCFA retreat much like the one I was currently on, as I broke down before my dearest companion, whom I had betrayed. The overwhelming joy, the deep despair, the surpassing hope, and the blinding frustration: my mind danced over each of these emotions as I beheld my personal relationship with God, in one swift sweep from its infancy to its present age. I felt once again the richness of God’s love; not just abstractly, as for humanity in general, but the beautiful bond that He and I have formed, which only the two of us know the depths of.

During the third song I felt so content with the findings of my introspection that I was willing to open my eyes, if only for a moment. I opened them and they fell upon one of the sweetest sights I’ve yet to see. I stood in the last row of a room of nearly 120 people, and looking around I saw a collection of people passionately praising the Lord that I love. They were more than just hands raised and heads held towards Heaven; these people, some of whom I knew and some of whom I hadn’t met, were all expressing their profound love for God, as I was. Each voice singing and pair of feet dancing marked another story, made up of nights alone in God’s presence, times of weakness and submission, and moments of bliss in the love of our Lord. Each one was praising the God that they have come to know; the God who alone knows their heart of hearts and has been with them in their solitude, their highs, and their lows. What a magnificent sight! That Him, my dearest love, has worked as mightily in those around me as he has in me! And though we all have our own stories, each of us has followed the God who first loved us and arrived at the same end – the glorious, sovereign, almighty, all-loving God of Jesus the Christ.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:5-6