Recently I attended a solo opera “Paul to the Church At Philippi” performed by Dr. Ed Steele. It was actually my second time to see the performance (my first was a birthday present to myself!) since Dr. Steele came to perform the opera for our Origins network of house churches. The music, written by Dr. Steele, is the perfect accompaniment. He had no need of a lyricist, since the text is word for word the entire book of Philippians.
My tears started flowing as the first few verses were sung and recited. When I heard the words “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” God reminded me that He was talking to me, and that He is far from finished with the good work He started in me personally.
I glanced around the room and noticed something else that moved me nearly beyond what I can express. A few guests had joined us for the performance. One was an older gentleman, a good friend of mine, a minister, and a leader in our state among other ministers and missionaries. I happen to be aware (most others in the room were not) that this awesome man is struggling with memory problems. In my career in assisted living, I deal daily with the effects of dementia and short term memory loss, and they are heartbreaking, frustrating, and debilitating to say the least. I glanced over at my friend and saw that as the words of Philippians were recited and sung, his lips moved along, not missing a beat. His grin was ear to ear, and he nodded in affirmation at words that held deep meaning for him. The words flowed freely from his memory with absolutely no hesitation.
I was already in a puddle, but melted further still as I saw played out in the flesh the truth I already know: God’s word stands forever. Even this moment, the words come to mind that I memorized as a child: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isa. 40:8) There’s something LIVING about the words of scripture. They come back at the Holy Spirit’s bidding, they appear at just the right time, they apply centuries after they were written, and in every different situation. I loved seeing and knowing that God’s Word and His Spirit are not limited by our minds or our ability to remember, think clearly, or express ourselves. In my own times of deepest despair I know I’ve been able to cry to God, (not necessarily able to say anything intelligible) read and remember His Word. He’s always been there, and always will be.
This, I love knowing. I love knowing that my friend who struggles to remember some day-to-day things has God’s Word planted deep in the recesses of his brain. I love knowing that if and when those words do fade from his memory, they will be no less true, and God’s Holy Spirit will remain, bringing comfort where there may be no words. I love knowing that God is able to permeate every layer of our conscious and subconscious and is not subject to our limited abilities, not sickened by our illnesses, not destroyed by our mistakes.
This comforts me beyond measure and inspires me to memorize even more, to stuff every possible word into my own gray matter so that it’s there for God’s use and at His disposal. I’m reminded of more words from Deuteronomy that Jesus Himself used in his own battle with Satan: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Those words are alive. They are real, and they are good. Give them a try!