“You brought me blessings out of a tragedy. / You turned my old song into a symphony. / And with Your spirit living inside of me, / I’m a new creation, I’m a new creation.”- Mac Powell
“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”- Ephesians 4:24 (ESV)
Under the category of ‘Questions You Never Thought to Ask Mom or Day During Their Earthly Life,’ I came up with this one for my father, William. What challenged you the most as a single parent during Mom’s five-plus month sanitarium stay? I suspect meal planning probably topped his list. Especially dinner.
Breakfast most likely consisted of cereal during the week and coffee cake from Burney Brothers Bakery on the weekend. For lunch I dined on the fine cuisine offered by servers with hair nets at the Luther South Cafe. Five nights a week, Dad ‘cooked’ dinner. And I’m sure he took full advantage of a fairly recent product at the time, the TV dinner. On Saturday nights, he usually heated up a John’s Pizza – cheese and sausage. And Dad perfected the art of the scrambled egg.
But I really looked forward to lunch on Saturday. After errands and organ practice at Ashburn Lutheran, we often went for lunch at The Ranch. My go-to order? Hamburger, fries, and a cherry shake. God turned Dad’s old song into a symphony: single parent style.
Single parent – yes. But alone – never. Grandma Henning came over every Monday to clean our house and prepare dinner. On Thursdays, our next-door neighbors, the Podewells, invited us to eat with them. Writing in Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen, Scott Sauls states that almost every American feels insecure and underencouraged. Most significantly, almost no one cares to admit it. Because we tend to devalue honest expressions of pain, sorrow, and distress. In contrast, Pastor Sauls underscores, expressing distressed emotion in a broken world gives witness to a strong faith, spiritual maturity, and Christlikeness.
Therefore, our expressions of distress fail to negate Scripture’s call to rejoice in the Lord. Instead, to express distress honors and makes complete our calling to rejoice. Hence, leaning into lament serves as a necessary skill in the art of rejoicing. And through their own Holy-Spirit inspired examples, the psalmists affirm this as truth. Because the faith of the psalmists enabled them to pray with honest, gutsy, raw, distressed emotions. In addition, Scott Sauls counsels and exhorts:
“Sometimes the parts of the Bible we should pay attention to the most, and the parts of the psalms we should pray the most, are the parts we have decided not to highlight or underline. Remember that Ecclesiastes needs Philippians and Philippians needs Ecclesiastes. Realism needs hope, and hope needs realism. Neither is complete without the other.”
In conclusion, Pastor Sauls stresses the need to make much out of our distressed feelings. For it’s often possible to trace our sources of distress back to the ways we try to replace God. With other, lesser things. As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, like a car designed to run on petrol, God designed us to run on Himself. Hence, our restless hearts need to find rest in Him.
To turn our old song into a symphony, we must fill the God-shaped and God-sized holes in our heart with God alone. C. S. Lewis explains:
“[God] Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”