My mom used to tell me, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. I always felt this was too pessimistic for my tastes and chose not to believe it. Sometimes my more ambitious approach to life has been warranted. To achieve my dreams and goals, I must always keep in mind that “all things are possible” as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26. On the other hand, it is possible to love something so much that it crushes you when the reality arrives which teaches that such a euphoric state of joy was just an illusion.
You have heard me speak of the joy I had singing in the choir this summer; the sense of purpose and meaning in knowing my life was being used for God in such a tremendous way. The show had been so well received last Sunday night, that we were awarded with a standing ovation. The perfectionist that I am, I sifted through the less than stellar moments on my part, and came out no better due to what was an illusory instant of some sort for me. Even a standing ovation could not amount to a perfect evening in my mind. However, I had already decided that God’s work was what mattered here. In fact, I had asked another choir member to pray before the show started. Our prayer seemed to prove very effective. Among other things, I had asked God to fill every member in the choir with His Holy Spirit. Imagine my surprise when I encountered a spiritual attack right from inside the camp, immediately following the show.
Full of camaraderie and joy from a job well done, the other sopranos and myself talked and discussed the show as we began to exit the choir loft. At this time a large man who had been assigned to be the librarian, which apparently gave him authority over all the books, noticed that I had put mine in my purse. This I had done without thinking. The book was very marked up as I had been so engrossed in studying every detail, that becoming interactive with the material was eventually a necessity. It was simple though, I would just pay for the book. In fact, I had noticed the other choir member’s books which they attempted to use, were falling apart. I would take great joy in going on Ebay, where the man assigned to the books had told me (on a good day) that he had ordered them, and purchase more, as my contribution to a town and a mission I very much believed in.
This man suddenly attacking me from out of nowhere came against me in such a remarkable way, I could not believe we had just been singing such glorious anthems of praise together. He called me a “smart-ass” which was awkward and seemed to be a reflection of a fight he had had with a younger child at some point. Being a mature lady of 48, I didn’t say anything at all to provoke this, but simply told him he wouldn’t want this book back as it was so badly marked up. I was not accustomed to someone putting so much worth on material objects. He told me he dared me to leave with the book, at which time I wondered if he planned on calling the police. He was large and confrontational, and rather threatening. His meanness was definitely not something from God. And it felt otherworldly and demonic, which it clearly was. The lady I had prayed with before the show counseled me that I should go ahead and purchase the new choir books as a gift, as I had previously intended, and this man’s behavior shouldn’t change me from being the gracious person I am. This was very good advice. The book I had marked with meaningful notes from my many practices during the summer would eventually find it’s way back to me no doubt.
The gruff man called the choir president for help. She was more sensible. She said to me, “can I have your word that you will replace the book?” I said “yes, I will buy several more books to replace the ones that are falling apart.” The large man continued to argue, and I offered to write a check in any amount, as a donation to the choir had also come to mind as a possible solution. So the kind lady spoke to the man who was obsessed about getting this book back, who then said that he would quit as a librarian if he didn’t get his way, and he walked away. The lady then told me that she had to insist on getting the book back, as she could not afford to lose a librarian. On the way out of the building I could hear her in a room talking to him.
Friends tried to talk to me following the show, and reflect on the stellar presentation, but I was hugely distracted and ended up going to my car where I broke down in tears. Working on this music with the dynamic conductor was the highlight of my summer, and possibly my entire stay in New Jersey, where I had resided for the past 8 years. In the choir’s facebook group I had thanked them for being so welcoming and friendly and helping me recover from the spiritual slump I had been in due to the meanness and callousness of other churches in the area. I had studied the score from this piece day and night, being very dedicated. I was driven mostly by a deep love for God which this amazing work of art found in me in a way no pastors, home groups, or radio sermons ever had. It was unspeakably meaningful to me, but perhaps it was an idol.
The Scriptures cited in the musical arrangements of the Masterpiece called “Elijah,” zeroed in on Baal worship. In the story line, the crowd called on Baal to answer the longings in their heart, and their need for necessities such as food and water. The God who answered by fire would be the God they all would worship. You could easily guess who won out in the end, if you are not already acquainted with the Scripture text.
Eventually making my way over to the beach, I sat on a small styrofoam surf board I had found in the back of my car, after quickly changing into a shirt that was more conducive to an evening on the beach, than a formal display from the choir loft. I went out into the sand and faced the vastness of the ocean and a gorgeous ocean breeze which reminded me that my vacation started tomorrow. I cried openly where no one could see. I remembered that my life was God’s. I reminded myself that my God can do as He likes with my life and I remembered another favorite Scripture “Should we accept good from God and not evil” (Job 2:10)? I wished that God were present in the form of a person, and asked
Him again for people in my life who were as good as He is.
On the drive home to Michigan the following day, I prayed some more and determined what to do next. Perhaps most disheartening of all, I knew I could no longer be in the choir. I simply must refuse to support an organization which allowed for such meanness toward participants. I also had to stop inviting other people into this group, as there had been other instances where members were mean and controlling toward myself and others. I could not with a clean conscience invite friends into a place where people would spiritually injure them because of confusion over material property and issues of control, which were exalted above kindness and the other fruits of the Spirit.
Going forward, I would stand my ground. I would tell the leaders what happened and it will be on them to change it. Not only would I determine to enjoy my vacation in Michigan with my family, who continually texted me on the ride home to inquire pertaining to my whereabouts, I would determine to remember fondly the beauty of what God had brought this summer in the majestic town of Ocean Grove. I will now, I decided, give God room to move and do His work, not clinging to a single thing but Him, continue doing music as He opens doors, and not fret about dropping out of the choir, if this must be the end result. However, other better endings could ensue, and I will allow for their possibility as well.