I feel I have to start this with a confession. I can be a music snob at times.
Even worse, I can allow this to distract me from worshipping God on occasion- I begin analysing the songs musically, sometimes thinking about how well I feel they are written and, on occasion, judging them too simple and repetitive.
The song I’m focussing on today is one of those songs. However, that didn’t stop God from using it in a powerful way.
It was my final day of leading at a camp for young people. It had been a fun week, but not an easy one. I was working with a group of six girls. They were lovely, but none of them were Christians, it was hard to keep them focussed during the group discussion times, and I wondered if anything was sinking in at all.
Two of the girls were particularly challenging to work with. They came from complicated home situations and their behaviour was difficult. There had been an unpleasant incident in the middle of the week when something had been stolen from a leader and, although nothing had been proved, one of the girls from my group was the prime suspect.
By the last day, people seemed to have moved on from that and it was going well- lots of fun with activities and water games- until I went upstairs to get changed and found that the two girls from my group had been involved in a fight- a full-on slapping, punching, hair-pulling extravaganza of a fight. Another leader had intervened and was on the way to inform the overall leaders of the camp.
The decision was quickly made that they were going to be sent home- both for their own safety and for others’. Until someone could come to pick them up, they had to be separated and supervised, so for the next two hours I had to sit in a room with one of the girls.
It was hard. We sat and chatted about various things- her home and family, her school, things she enjoyed… anything but the fight. I desperately wanted to say something that would encourage her, something that would give her hope, something that would make the camp stick in her mind as a positive memory, but I had no idea how to do that. It just made me sad that it was ending this way, that I’d tried so hard to tell her about Jesus and it seemed to have made no impact at all. I vowed there and then to continue to pray for her. I knew that this didn’t have to be the end of the story.
Finally someone came for her. I joined the rest of my group for dinner with a heavy heart, feeling that if I stopped even for a moment the emotion would overwhelm me. Of course the group were upset by the situation too: full of questions, wanting to talk. I answered the best I could.
Then we gathered together for worship. I still felt weighed down by the events of the afternoon, and wasn’t in the mood, but then we began to sing “Your love is amazing”, and in that moment, God used a song that I had dismissed as “too repetitive” to speak to me.
I just let the words and music wash over me:
“Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging.
Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet.
Your love is a mystery, how it gently lifts me.
When I am surrounded, your love carries me.”
As I did, I felt that mysterious love lift me. The circumstances of the day had been unsettling and difficult, but God’s love was steady, a firm foundation. And as we reached the chorus: “Hallelujah! Your love makes me sing,” I genuinely felt it. Despite all that had happened, God’s love was amazing, and I did want to sing. That song gave me the boost I needed to get through the rest of the evening, and even enjoy it, rather than being burdened by the events of the day.
I never saw the girls who were sent home again, and I have no idea how things turned out for them, but there is a beautiful postscript to this story.
About three years later I was involved in a training event for Christian teenagers and I encountered one of the other girls who had been in my group at that camp. I was surprised and delighted to see her there.
But I was even more surprised and delighted to discover that she had become a Christian at that very camp, though she hadn’t told anyone at the time, that in the midst of the chaos and the challenges, God had been powerfully at work!
She said she knew that camp had been difficult for the leaders and that watching the way we had handled it had been one of the main factors that had prompted her to come to faith!
It was such a gift to be able to meet her again and to discover how God had been working, when at the time I had no idea.
His love truly is amazing!