“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
Today I want to post some thoughts that are, essentially, an expansion of the “God Moment” I shared earlier this morning in my men’s small group Bible study.
Friday morning was the graveside service for our friend Cynthia (I wrote about her – faithful witness to love and light – a few days ago). The service was – by necessity of the times – a small gathering, held at the Brier Creek Memorial Gardens in Raleigh.
The oak trees there are magnificent, standing as a strong witness to the timelessness of creation, the permanence of things rooted and nurtured, and the shelter of God’s love.
Cynthia was very specific regarding the songs she wanted, so I did my best to cover both George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me.
I Can Only Imagine may be the best-selling and most requested Christian song of the past twenty years, but I somehow managed to make it all the way to Thursday evening without giving it any attention. I honestly didn’t even know the tune.
So I listened, several times, I found the music online, and I learned the basics. By the time we rolled into the memorial gardens I was beginning to feel the compelling pull of the words and the melody. Then, after listening to the powerful words Rebekah delivered in her message, I sang I Can Only Imagine and God was – very much, reassuringly, obviously – there.
I strongly recommend the movie:
So Rebekah and I returned home, debriefed, and decided to watch the recently released movie that tells the story of how I Can Only Imagine was written: “It was about ten minutes for the words,” songwriter Bart Millard said, “and another ten minutes for the music.”
But the song wasn’t written in 20 minutes, it was the result of a lifetime of hurt, growing up, abuse, anger, resentment, running away, confronting, listening, learning, understanding, forgiving, and redemption.
The movie essentially detailed that story. But it was at the end (when Bart stood on the stage and debuted the song in its simplest form) when God touched me so deeply – or maybe I should say when the tears finally came in response to the ongoing sense of God’s presence I had felt all day.
I know I’m kind of a lightweight in the tears department. Music often takes me over the edge. And I understand how easy it is to confuse sentiment with faith. But I have to tell you, it was God absolutely and I have come to understand that when I stand in God’s presence and I let the barriers down then the fact of divinity is as real as anyone could ever hope….
Surrounded by Your glory;
What will my heart feel.
Will I dance for you Jesus;
Or in awe of You be still.
Will I stand in your presence;
Or to my knees will I fall.
Will I sing hallelujah;
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine;
I can only imagine… (Bart Millard)
That was the story I shared with my small group early this morning, sitting in my garage at 7:30, talking and praying via Zoom, being in a very real way the presence of Jesus to one-another, encouraging one-another in this journey of following Jesus.
Peace, and more peace – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.