"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)
Long ago, in a place far away, there was a church that broke my heart. Its people were wounded and wary. They tentatively gathered every Sunday morning with their emotional backs to the wall and arms folded across their chests.
The posture of protection. Generations of them. Generations.
They went about the business of living and trying to love with hearts numbed by years of hurt. They built walls to keep out the stranger, the different, the unknown, and longed for the good old days when everyone knew everyone else. Surely it was safe back then.
They wrapped themselves in memories warmer than their realities. Incomplete memories that glossed over the bad times in favor of the good. They told themselves, "in secrecy and denial is our strength."
But they still hurt. With every critical word, the pain showed through. And so I knelt in the quiet of a dark and empty sanctuary and prayed, "How long, O Lord? How long before their hearts hear the words from Your heart, the Word that proclaimed to the world Your love? How long before they throw off their threadbare quilts and accept the warmth and healing in the robes You offer? How long?"
One day I heard a song. A song that gave me vision. A vision of what those people would look like with their arms open wide to receive the love and healing He promised. And I longed to sing that song in that place with those people.
"Hear the sound of hearts returning to You
We turn to You
In your Kingdom, broken lives are made new,
You make us new
But that time did not come. The prayer remained unanswered. "How long, O Lord?" I despaired. And then the day came that we moved out from that place to another, and then another. Moved without seeing the answer. Moved without singing the song. Distance and time blunted my prayers. Yet I waited.
When I had almost forgotten, a small, gentle breeze began blowing. I heard short stories from the church that broke my heart. Stories of praise, celebration, confession, and healing. I was encouraged.
"Hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You
We yearn for You"
Could it be...?
Sunday morning I stood in a different church and sang familiar words, those words that spoke to me so long ago, I had almost forgotten the song. I stood among different people who embraced the words. And so did I. This new church broke my heart. But the tears were tears of gratitude. A still small voice within asked, "Can it be? Is this the answer?"
Someday we will ALL stand together and sing the song. In a new place. Where all the tears will be wiped away. Where all things will be new. Someday.
Today, today my heart rejoices in answered prayer.