We made it to church this morning, after missing for about three weeks. Melanie and I both have to be up to it any more to be able to make it. Since tomorrow is her birthday, I was glad she could be present for the birthday blessing that is always a part of the service. But when the time came, she didn’t have the energy to walk the entire length of the nave and back to get with the others gathered up front. (These days we sit on the back row for my sake, to make the shortest trip from the entrance doors.)
My eyes don’t focus well enough to read the bulletin any more without my reading glasses (which I leave at home). I know the service liturgy without needing to read it. But this means I don’t usually know the processional hymn until I hear the opening notes.
Today it was a hymn I’ve half-memorized from singing it over and over at home. Many times I’ve sung it weeping.
The second verse begins,
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
and that’s about where my tears returned this morning. In addition to being the service next to Melanie’s birthday, today marks two years since the final time I was able to participate and serve as a deacon around the altar at a Sunday service.
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
I was standing, hanging onto the pew in front of me for balance. Since my hands were busy, I couldn’t reach for the Kleenex I needed.
By the third verse of the hymn the crucifer had reached the altar and the ministerial party had gotten in their positions.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
I can’t bear witness that the flame hasn’t hurt and I am not sure what gold, if any, has resulted after two years. But I tried once more, as I often do, several times a day, to express thanks for the supply of God’s grace in my life. And for the vehicles of that grace, like the sweetheart who sat next to me in the service and who celebrates her birthday tomorrow in conditions I would not have chosen for her. She sings this hymn too, often as part of her breakfast as she starts another day.
Happy birthday, darling. I love you.