Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wife Rule #123: Appreciate the Gifts

My wife often gives me gifts. Not the kind that are wrapped in colored paper with ribbons or bows, but the intangible, more valuable kind: gifts of service, gifts of self, and gifts of time.

This past month she has given me a precious gift of time by agreeing that I should participate in a church-sponsored production of selections from Handel's Messiah. For the last several years I have sung with my parents and siblings in the chorus for this production. Singing together is a cherished family tradition, dating back as far as I can remember, to the hymns we would sing together each Monday family night, to weekly congregational singing in church with Dad as chorister, to the many years we sang together in our church choir with Dad often serving as the choir director, to more recent memories of huddling around the piano at family gatherings and singing Christmas music or hymns to our Lord.

Throughout all these memories, if I could point to a single common thread besides the sweet Spirit that always accompanies the unifying experience of singing sacred music together, it would be Dad. Dad's intense love of music, coupled with his profound love for the Lord, brought a passion and sweet flavor to these singing experiences that has engraved itself on my heart and memory like a soft, ongoing melody.

As the Messiah concert has developed into sort of a new tradition, I have come to relish the yearly opportunity to sing with the choir, which continues to improve, and the orchestra, which is absolutely top-notch for a community-level production. Unfortunately, my wife's experience sitting with the kids in the audience has continued to deteriorate year after year, culminating in several tantrums so loud last year that she was forced to first leave the chapel where the audience sat, then leave the adjacent foyer, and eventually sit out the remainder of the two-hour program in a remote classroom where my loving progeny couldn't be heard by those trying to enjoy the music. She vowed never to bring the younger kids to the Messiah again.

Hence, this year not only did she give me the opportunity to practice with the choir, but also her blessing to spend a precious December night away from the family at the performance. This is a significant sacrifice for a full-time mother of five children ages ten to one, and one that is very much appreciated. She knows how much this means to me, despite the difficulty of leaving my family for another night. She was genuinely happy to do it, especially considering that we don't know how many more performances my Dad will be able to sing with us in, with his ongoing cancer struggle.

This year's production held an unexpected treat. During Saturday morning's dress rehearsal, as we were getting ready to sing the most well-known and beloved of all the Messiah choruses, the Hallelujah chorus, the conductor suddenly stopped and said, "I have a special request." She then asked my father if he would come down to the podium and take the baton to conduct choir and orchestra through this masterful composition of scriptural praise set to jubilant music.

As Dad made his way through the choir seats and then through the orchestra to the podium, there were quiet whispers of excitement among us. Nearly everyone from the choir knew Dad--knew of his long service as a church music conductor, of his love of music, knew of his struggle with cancer, but especially knew of his quiet, humble, unassuming demeanor and his unwavering faith in the Lord.

As Dad flicked the baton to start the orchestra in the opening measures, energy built up in the choir until it practically exploded in the first strains of "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" The sound burst forth in perfect rhythm and harmony in praise of Jesus Christ, the Savior who had healed the man now conducting us five years ago from cancer, and He to whom we now trusted Dad's life in his current struggles.

"Hallelujah!" Our single-word cries of love and adoration for God rang through the chapel.

"For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!" Expressions of faith in our all-powerful Creator mingled with unspoken cries of hope for further healing and faith in His wisdom as my father's hand led us onward through the chorus.

"King of kings, and Lord of lords!" Tears flowed freely now from many members of the chorus as we contemplated the majesty of the Savior's position as Creator of kingdoms without end.

"And He shall reign forever and ever!" Yes, forever and ever. That is what we have to look forward to. There will come a time when sickness, and loss, and sorrow will end and all will be replaced with order and perfection by the might of His arm and the grace of His love for us. Dad's cancer is temporary. The humble, gentle man now standing before us, leading us through an anthem of faith and adoration, will someday be permanently healed. In the eternities, Dad and every friend and loved one who honors the name of Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords, will reign with Him forever and ever, in happiness that never ends.

Our voices broke again and again until the final triumphal shouts of "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" gave way to a few seconds of silence, followed by enthusiastic applause. Amidst teary eyes and encouraging smiles, Dad made his way back to his seat with the choir, and the conductor took her place to lead the soloists through the transcendent melodies of I Know that My Redeemer Liveth and The Trumpet Shall Sound:

I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the last day.
Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.

The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible. And we shall be changed.

Yes, we shall be changed. Changed from mortality to immortality. Changed from our frail, sinful states to a condition of perfected glory, to stand together with our families, forever to worship our Creator, our Redeemer, and the Captain of our souls.

Thank you for the gift of time, my Love.

Thank you for the gift of music and testimony, Dad.

And thank You for the gifts of redemption and love, my Savior and Messiah.


Jenny and Al said...

That was such a special experience. Thank you for blogging about it, Matt.

Mom said...

You've done it again, Matt--made me cry by your heartfelt words and love. I love you and your beautiful bride and precious kidlets.

Trudy said...

Matt, now I understand the miracles that surround us, this music, because of our King of Kings. I love your gratitude to your wife, and the tender connection music has been for your family. My faith and hope is that your father will indeed be healed, and bless your family for years to come, God willing. Thank you for your spirit and gifts. And thank you, Brooke!