He walked up to me after church and grabbed my hand.
“I would really like to sing with you,” he said. He looked at me with kind eyes, and his hand trembled slightly inside of mine. “My wife and I are moving in a couple of weeks. Can we make this happen soon?”
Of course, I immediately said yes. Mr. David has been a kind, gentle presence inside our church home since our family first began attending. Always quick with a crooked smile, and a wink of the eye, I’d been immediately drawn to his tender spirit.
Parkinson’s Disease has slowed Mr. David down in recent years. But it has not weakened his spirit, nor has it diminished his love of music.
When I readily agreed, Mr. David smiled. “Good. I’d like to sing ‘I’ve Just Seen Jesus.’ Have you heard it?”
In that moment, my heart skipped a beat, because yes, of course I’ve heard the song. I’m a child of the ’80’s, after all. I grew up on Sandi Patty, singing my heart out in the passenger seat, while my mom tried not to cringe behind the wheel.
I mean, I don’t want to brag, but I could pretty much nail ‘Via Dolorosa’ as a nine year old. I was all over it.
But my heart didn’t skip a beat with excitement at the suggestion of this song, but rather trepidation. See, I’m older now, and I’m more aware of the fact that I am not Sandi Patty. I thought of the notes that she hits at the end of that song, and I felt like I might be a little sick. Immediately, fear took hold of me as I imagined myself trying to croak out those high notes into a microphone, and watching everyone seated in front of me cringe the way my mom did behind the wheel of our Buick.
Last Sunday morning, Mr. David and I met early to practice. Again, I felt my heart flutter with nervousness, because I was so focused on the last half of the song – the part where the female vocal is supposed to climb into the rafters and hang out for awhile.
As we ran through the song, though, I found myself less focused on my own short comings (namely that my name isn’t Sandi Patty), and more on the remarkable task that Mr. David faced. Parkinson’s has robbed him of a lot of physical capabilities, and getting the words out quickly enough was a challenge. But the one thing Parkinson’s has not taken from him is his voice. For all my concern about my ability to hit the high notes, I never once doubted his ability to do it.
In the moments leading up to the song, I felt the Lord begin to whisper. It was the gentle, kind admonition that my heart needed.
This morning isn’t about you. It’s not about whether or not you can hit those notes. It’s not about presenting a perfect song to a listening audience.
This morning is about laying your gifts and talents before me in an offering of praise.
Give your voice to me.
I’ve got this.
I heard these words almost as if they’d been spoken audibly, and when it came time to stand in front, the tremor in my spirit was gone. No longer focused on my own shortcomings, I was able to instead focus on the truly remarkable gift that Mr. David shared with all of us.
He stood up there, and despite the physical challenges that threatened to derail him, he opened his mouth and he let the praise bubble out. The words were warbled at times, but it didn’t matter, because his heart was fully present.
By the end of the song, everyone was standing and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Because when we are willing to share our gifts in an act of humble praise, no matter how imperfect they may be, people cannot help but be moved.
I learned something last Sunday. When we offer back our gifts and talents, it’s not about the end result. It’s not about presenting a finished product that is perfectly polished, because perfection doesn’t guarantee impact.
But when we’re willing to offer up our broken praise simply out of a passion for the art, and for the Maker, that is when the greatest offering of praise is presented.
I’ll forever be thankful to Mr. David for teaching me that lesson.
And for fulfilling the secret dream of my 1987 nine-year-old self, which was to be Sandi Patty for a day.