If you ever have a chance to see Ken Davis, I would strongly urge you to do so. I had the opportunity to see him a few years ago at an engagement he had at Houghton College. So, with that said, I would like to share with you today a very moving story from Ken Davis. The story is taken from his book entitled “Lighten Up”. This story spoke to my heart and brought tears to my eyes. It is my sincere desire that it will touch your heart and life in such a way you will want to share it with your friends, family, and loved ones.
The program was set to begin. I settled back in my seat, surrounded by a sea of eleven thousand faces. At the conclusion of a thirty-day tour, I was physically exhausted and emotionally spent. Most of all, I was adjusting to the news of my youngest daughter’s engagement. I was feeling sorry for myself, old and deserted, an aging model-T putt-putting along in a world exceeding the speed limit. The people seated around me in the arena were pausing from their hectic lives to sing, pray, laugh, and learn together. From my vantage point, it was just another stress-filled speaking engagement. Beside me was Taryn, the lovely daughter who’d betrayed me by getting engaged so young. I waited with a burdened heart for the beginning of the festivities.
The lights began to dim. Suddenly the room was filled with wonderful music: the soaring brass of an orchestra, the harmonies of several college choirs joining their voices in song. They sang Behold the Lamb of God as a stately procession of young people bore colorful banners, each displaying a name for our awesome God. I was deeply moved. Then again, in my physical and emotional state I would have been deeply moved by a piano-recital rendition of Chopsticks. Still, all the pageantry before me caused tears to stream down my face. Then Walter Wangerin, one of the finest storytellers I know, stepped to the platform. He stood and faced the choir silently for a moment. Finally he spoke: Behold the Lamb of God!
He paused as he looked over the youthful faces of the choir. Will you sing like that tomorrow! He asked. When I’m very old; when I’ve lost my hair and my sight; when I’ve lost my self-control so that I cry more often than I would wish, and I’ve lost my bodily control so that I befoul myself, when I’m no longer pretty and I know that I’m no longer pretty, will you come and sing to me then! Wangern’s message was based on Exodus 20:12, Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. His challenge was to reflect the love of the Lamb of God by loving and honoring our aging parents. That message touched the raw edges of my soul. Eleven thousand people sat in silence as he closed his message with a powerful illustration.
The only sound that accompanied his voice was the hushed weeping throughout the building. He told of visiting his friend Mel on a crisp autumn afternoon in Wisconsin. Mel spent much of his time reading and studying in his parlor, where he could be with his aging mother. As Walter entered his friend’s home, he was enveloped in the wonderful aroma of apple pie. Oh, I see your mother is baking pies, Walter said with a smile. No, Mel answered. I see to the necessary things now. Looking around, Walter understood what he meant. There was a pool of light cast by Mel’s reading lamp, and just beyond it, in a bed, was Mel’s ailing mother. Walter had known her for years. Now she sat propped up, her face an empty slate. Mel made introductions as though they’d never met. As Walter reached forward and shook her hand, her watery blue eyes never gazed higher than his stomach. Walter sadly comprehended: A dear old friend no longer knew him.
After sharing a walk and a slice of apple pie with his friend, Walter retired to bed. In the middle of the night, he was awakened by a sound from the parlor. Someone seemed to be in great pain. There were awful, inarticulate screams coming from downstairs: Yeeeahhhh! Naaaaah! He rose quickly, wrapped a robe around himself, and hurried down to the parlor. Mel wasn’t in his chair. With eyes adjusting to the darkness, Walter could see his friend Mel kneeling beside the bed of his mother. He motioned for Walter to be seated. As Walter did so, he became aware of an awful odor, and he knew what his dear friend was doing – he was changing his mother’s diapers. He was cleansing his mother with tenderness and grace. He was honoring her in the very spirit God prescribed for the honoring of parents. And as he did so, he softly sang.
He was singing lullabies to her in the language she knew as a child. And you know what she was doing? Walter asked eleven thousand listeners on the edges of their seats. In a lusty voice, she was singing along: Yeeeahhhh … Naaaaah … Walter testified, as she sang along with her son, I know she was young and beautiful once more. She was in no prison and under no slavery, neither of sin nor of body. Mel’s mother stood before the congregation with bows in her hair. She was once again in her homeland, where all was new and al was good. And she was singing at the top of her lungs to her Father in heaven.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. My shoulders heaved as that deep part of my soul longed to be honored and loved with such tenderness. At that moment, Walter Wangerin turned once again to the choir. And when I come to die, O my children, will you remember me? He asked. When I have no hair or teeth or continence or sense left; when I have no beauty and know that I have none; when mostly I smell and I shudder and I cannot control my tears, will you come to me? With tenderness, conviction, and strength, will you sing the songs that your parents knew in their childhood? So that they may be honorable again; so that this land will last; will you sing to me then? I buried my head in my hands and wept openly as Walter softly, tenderly, led the audience in the first verse of Jesus Loves Me.
I felt an arm ease around my shoulders. Gently a hand pulled my head close, and the voice of my beautiful eighteen-year-old daughter whispered in my ear: I’ll sing for you, Daddy. I’ll sing for you. All the stress and tension melted away. Even as I wept, I basked in the kind of love that every heart craves – the kind of love that changes the world. Behold the Lamb of God!
Just a thought:
Sing for someone today.