Monday, September 16, 2013

o my soul.

Yesterday morning I was at church early, rehearsing with the worship team. While we were practicing, I saw my phone alert a text message. Since it was from my sister, who isn't normally in the habit of pre-10 a.m. Sunday morning texts, I grabbed my phone to see what was up. 

Many of you probably understand the type of dread that you immediately, unintentionally associate with receiving calls/texts/messages from certain people. With most people (okay, females of child-bearing age) in my life, I immediately, subconsciously brace myself for a pregnancy announcement. You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that plants itself there for the amount of time it takes you to unlock your phone and access your message. I don't know what your particular 'insta-dread' is-- maybe it's seeing your child's school show up on CallerID. Maybe it's your sick grandmother's caretaker, the one that will definitely be making the call when tragedy strikes. And even though that person may be calling or texting to chat about the weather or chaperoning a field trip or the touchdown in last night's football game-- it's still there. The minute you see their name flash, you assume the worst. Even though 99% of the time a call from that person is innocuous, you're ready for the 1%. The time when the news will be hard to take. The time when your emotions need to be ready.

With my sister...well, her husband is serving in Afghanistan. The level of 'potential bad' that could be in a call or text from her is pretty damn legitimately bad.

This is what she texted me yesterday:

I thank you in advance for ignoring her spelling errors. My sister has a thousand incredible talents-- spelling has never been counted amongst them, so we'll just let it go. ;)
 Is it 'the news'? You know...the news you know every military wife is sitting at home praying they never hear? No. Thank God, this news was not the worst. But it still hit me like a sucker-punch. Right there, in the middle of my practice, I burst out crying.

Because this? It's too hard. And it's not even my husband...but this having your man away at war's too much. A heart can only bear so much, I think...and knowing that there's nothing but prayer and a Kevlar vest separating the brave members of our troops from...that...I just...I can't. I hate war, and I hate injustice, and I hate guns, and I hate that some people die so that others can live freely. I hate that my sister has to live with the knowledge that her husband may not come home. That one morning, it may not be an email telling her about a close could be men at her doorstep, holding a flag.

It's too much.

And here I was, trying to sing-- trying to worship the God that I fully believe is in control of it all. Who is worthy of all glory, all honor, all praise-- even if the worst happens. Even when then worst happens. Even when life is unfair. And I just...I wept. My heart and my mind and everything, they just can't always put it all together in a neat package and understand how it works. How God is good and his love endures...even when we don't see it. Even when things don't look good. When they don't feel good.

And it's weird, because-- I mean, really, it was kind of a GOOD text, right? I mean...Mark's safe. Some of his men are injured, but they're alive. And so we rejoice, and we thank God for His protection, and we beg for more. But I was suddenly faced with the truth of how fickle my heart is, how easily swayed my faith-- if the news had not been so good, would I still be able to have kept singing? Because it was hard enough as it was...and the news was good.

And then we got to the last song of rehearsal, and it's a song I deeply love. But what I really love is the last part of the song, at the end...and over and over we sing 'o my soul, praise Him...o my soul, praise Him.' And I love that because it's beautiful and it's true. It's over and over in the Psalms, when David is distraught and lost and his life really sucks, and he says 'O my soul- praise Him.' And he's bossing his soul around, you know? He commands his soul...he's like 'soul, I know you're a mess right now, and you're not in a good place, and you don't even understand where God is or what's going on, and you don't know if you'll make it til tomorrow....but PRAISE HIM still.' He doesn't wait for his circumstances to shape back up, or his mind to get in a happier state. He commands his soul to praise Him. And I love that and I need that, because I am like David. If we leave my worship up to my emotions, then I'll praise Him when I feel like it. I'll praise Him when things are going well and people are healthy and money is flowing and Mark and his troops are getting bored from sitting around doing nothing in their barracks all day. And that's fine. But what about all the other days? What about the rest of the time, when things aren't great, when people are sick and relationships are strained and uteruses are broken and civilians are being slaughtered by their own government...and it's just not okay and it's too much.

Then O my soul, praise Him.

Then even still, it is well with my soul.

I'm not a theologian and I don't have a lot of things figured out, but when I am weak and when I am sad and when I want to shake my fist at God and tell him it just isn't fair...I'm learning instead to command my soul to praise Him.

And yesterday I got to do that in real time. As I stood there and wept, and the rest of the band played on and probably wondered why women get so emotional at the drop of a hat, I made the choice to praise Him. And maybe it was a liiiiiittle easier since ultimately, there wasn't any bad news in that text. So I don't know why it plowed me over the way it did. But I am thankful that it happened when and where it did, because while I cried and struggled with why God lets war happen, why innocent people have to die, and why my sister has to go to bed every night wondering whether she'll be awakened by the most horrible news of her life, I was in a safe place where people I love stopped everything to pray with me. To pray for my sister, and her husband, and our troops. Their eyes filled with tears, too, and we hugged and shook our heads and wondered at our fallen humanity and the unfairness of life. 

And then together...o my soul, praise Him. And when our eyes welled with tears again, we reminded one another: O my soul, praise Him.

I am so, so thankful for my community of faith. For a church that doesn't brush hurt and confusion under the rug, but cries along with me-- even as they cry out. For a God of abundant, reckless love. O my soul...praise Him.

PS. The song we sang that had me crying all day is O My Soul by Samuel Lane. If you use this link, the 'o my soul' part starts around 3 minutes. I can guarantee you I'll be singing it all day long...feel free to join me if your soul needs some bossing around. If you want to listen to a much less-polished version, shot with the amazing technology of an iPhone, with lots of off-tune congregational singing mixed in, Matt did record us yesterday at the end of the song. You can watch it, but only if you promise not to laugh at me.


  1. Amen, and so glad he is ok! Will pray for him and your sis right now!

  2. I often think about how I could never, ever handle being a military wife... glad your BIL is ok, and that God used the music at church to remind you of His goodness and faithfulness even in the midst of crumminess!

  3. Just said a prayer for your sister, brother in law and his men. We are so blessed to have amazing men and women give of themselves for our freedom. I'll be keeping your family and the men in my thoughts and prayers. xoxo

  4. YES! This is so good Erika, so so good. Obviously not the part about Mark, that's scary and frustrating. I'm so thankful he's okay and that his platoon is alive... praying for them today. But the part about commanding your soul... that is so good. My favorite song right now is 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman for the exact same reason. "Bless the Lord, Oh my soul," is says because sometimes our souls need to be commanded. So thankful for your heart! Love you friend!

  5. Beautiful post! Glad I'm not alone when I see someone call and hold my breathe for bad news. Your brother in law is a hero but your sister is too! Military families make so many sacrifices for us and I'm very thankful. My prayers are going out to his platoon!

  6. Beautiful. Praying for your sister and her husband, for continued safety. Love your heart girl.

  7. Prayers for Mark, his platoon, and your sis. Thank you for the beautiful reminder to command my soul to praise.

  8. It brought tears to my eye just reading it. I know exactly what you mean about the 'insta-dread' phone calls. they are the worst, especially when they are true. :/

    praying for Matt, for your sister, and for all of the troops over there.

    thanks for sharing that song, its a beauty. && i didn't know you were in a worship cool!

  9. I'm not a particularly religious person though your post really resonates with me. I too have a family member in Afghanistan and it is unfathomable to think that he might not come home. Truly, I can't wrap my head around it and this is his second deployment.
    I read this piece by Nate Pyle during my miscarriage (and eons of infertility) and it really spoke to me.

  10. Hmmm... my link didn't work. Trying again.

  11. *tears* I'm so glad that he's okay and that his men are all alive. It isn't fair, in so many different ways, to have to live with that kind of horrible uncertainty. So glad you are able to make the choice to consciously praise the Lord.

  12. Keeping your Sister and BIL in my prayers. I know exactly what you mean about the "possible" dreaded phone call/text. Love this post so much :)

  13. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, and thank you for linking to the song (both were beautiful renditions). Kind of reminds me of David Crowder's "Never Let Go"--"O my soul overflows, oh what love, oh what love/O my soul, fills with hope, perfect love that never lets go..."

  14. Thank you for sharing this - and yes to Amanda's comment- reminds me of that song. You are so right that our souls need commanding sometimes. Great truth for a Monday. Prayers to your sister and BIL.

  15. Beautiful Erika. I'm so sorry about this news, but so glad he is ok!I love that God redeemed the situation and had you in just the place he wanted you - a place to worship and honor him, despite the text and your BIL situation. O our souls, let us praise Him! Thanks for being vulnerable with us and sharing your heart!

  16. SO glad he and his men are okay!! I will be keeping them in my thoughts and praying for their safe return!!

  17. Girl - i am so sorry! I am praying for you & your sister & her husband & the guys he is with. I struggle with those thoughts too... and feel terrible for close friends whose hubbies are off at war. It's just too much.

    Also, i didn't know you sang with the praise team. :) I do too. And i have definitely cried at practice. Haha. Sometimes the words of a song just get you! I am learning to praise God through my infertility. He is GOOD. He is faithful.

    I will listen to that song! I have never heard it. I don't think. :)


  18. I watched the video. I love your praise team! And you & the guy harmonizing together! Beautiful! And you have a violinist on your worship team! LOVE! :)

  19. So happy that your BIL is ok. XO

  20. Erika, I am praying for Mark and his fellow soldiers. I am also praying for your sister-in-law as she deals with this deployment. And I am praying for you as you support your sister and worry about your brother-in-law.

    And thank you for what you wrote. I am inspired to give my soul a kick in the pants to get it praising. You are so right that it is what we NEED to do even when we don't FEEL like doing it.

  21. There are so many emotions that pour from this post, that I wasn't sure which one to give into first, but that picture, and the lyrics, and I know exactly what song you are talking about, and now I'm sending some Lutheran prayers for your BIL straight to our heavenly Father.

    Your words inspire endlessly, my beautiful sister.

  22. Such truth to this post. So much we can all identify with in one way or another. We are all a work in progress, huh? I have been there many times wondering "If the news would have been worse, would I still have faith, still be able to give thanks as I am commanded to, still trust, etc?" Praying for your sweet family!

  23. I simply cannot imagine. I know that that phrase is overused, but it's true in this case. I cannot imagine the fear of that flag at the front door. My thoughts and tears are going out to your sister.

    And also, that song will stick with me.

  24. We'll add Mark (and his men) and Sarah to our morning prayers. :)

    And yes, everyone needs to boss their soul every now and then. This past week, I've had to boss mine a lot!


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