Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A year ago Sunday night I got one of those phone calls that change your life forever.

"Katie, this is Kayla. I need to let you know that some of the Highland youth had an accident on their way back from Winterfest. The van flipped over and one boy was killed. They're taking some others to the hospital. People are gathering at the church to pray."

I don't know if she said those words exactly - the whole night is such a blur. I hung up the phone and rushed to Jeremiah's house. After receiving more phone calls from friends and Highland members, we went to the church, where people were gathered - praying, shaking their heads, trying to comprehend. We tried to piece together the conflicting detail reports. One boy killed. Six teenagers and an adult, the driver of the van, seriously injured. Two released that night; several who were in the hospital for days or weeks. One, still one crutches a year later.

This past Sunday night I walked into the Highland auditorium with members of my Life Team, to take part in a grief and lament service. David Lang spoke a few words about the year of loss it's been for many of us. Sarah Campbell, our youth minister, shared her thoughts from the days following the accident. Rob Cunningham talked about Brody Bourland's funeral, and about the depth of honest faith he has seen played out in the lives of the Bourlands and others from this church.

On the stage, rows of candles had been set up - short votives and tea lights in small glasses, with one central large candle representing Christ. Anyone who had lost a loved one this past year was invited to come up and light a candle in their memory. Jeremiah leaned over and whispered, "If you go to light a candle, I want to go with you."

So we joined the line of hundreds - literally - that streamed toward the stage, crying, hugging, praying as we went. I think I cried for a solid hour that night. The tears wouldn't stop coming. They stem from a year of grief and pain and heartache.

I lit only one candle. But it stood for Cheryl, my friend who died a year ago August. And for Randen, my little cousin who died last March. And for Brody, whom I didn't even know. And for all the other griefs and trials and soul-storms that pressed in on every side last year. I lit one candle, and then I turned and pressed my head into Jeremiah's chest, and I cried.

I don't know how long I stood there weeping (although, as his white shirt later showed, the tears were copious). Not ten feet away, four women were doing the same thing; people lined the area below the stage, praying and hugging and crying out together. Perhaps the most touching sight of all was the kids who had been in the wreck, including Jon Westin Bennett (still on crutches), in a knot on the stage next to the candles, supporting one another.

Then the ZOE version of "Blessed Be Your Name" came over the speakers. And one by one, through their tears, people began to sing. By the end of the first verse I think everyone was singing, even those of us who were still crying. And by the first chorus we were all singing with all we had. "Blessed be the Name of the Lord; blessed be Your Name. Blessed be the Name of the Lord; blessed be Your glorious Name."

I choked up and had to wipe away tears as we sang the second verse, and my voice cracked on the bridge ("You give and take away; You give and take away/My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your Name"). But I still sang my heart out. We all did - because we had to. When life comes down to its worst, when terror and grief and pain rain down, there is no one else to go to but the Lord. He has the words of eternal life. There is no other name under heaven by which we can - and must - be saved.

I will sing that song today in the opening chapel of my last semester at ACU, on a praise team of dear friends, to a coliseum full of dear friends. And I hope that whatever happens this semester and the rest of my life, I will be able to sing these words:

Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the Name of the Lord - Blessed be Your Name
Blessed be the Name of the Lord - Blessed be Your glorious Name



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read the Redemption series by Karen Kingsbury with Gary Smalley? I'm near the end of the 4th volume of 5. I think you'd like them.
Jeremiah's mom

11:42 AM  

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