If you build it, they will come

Sally - Lord I believeAnd someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” ~ Mark 9:17-29

 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” ~ Matthew 21:21-22 

Few people are 100% optimist, 100% pessimist, 100% realist or 100% idealist or 100% fatalist. Most of us have a mix of isms—depending on the issues—sometimes it might be only a touch and certainly many may lean in the direction of one or another. Some people just can’t stand isms at all and that’s okay, too.

Indulge me. This will be important to know. I like to think of myself as a healthy mix of realism and idealism. I’m not an unhappy type so I’m really not a pessimist, but I am a cynic-of-sorts, so sometimes my viewpoint may appear pessimistic. Sometimes I even fight fatalism. I do appreciate optimism in its many forms, but I’m not naïve enough to be a die-hard optimist (translated as I’m not exactly Pollyanna). One of my favorite movie lines is, “The Ring passed to Isildur, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever, but the hearts of men are easily corrupted. And the ring of power has a will of its own.” More recently, I laughed and shook my head when a character said, “People will always do the stupid, selfish thing. Ten times out of ten.” Seriously, I want to believe better of people and I see people make good choices over and over and over. Still, I suppose I fight off hoping for the best and expecting the worst more often than I should.

My husband is a bit of a visionary – he is often teasingly called the eternal optimist. During his visionary moments, my realism seems to surface above my idealism. So, with each plan and each vision, I try to find a way to encourage and not discourage. I am not always successful. In 2009, we had the first of many annual singings (not to be confused with our small monthly singings). It was shortly after that singing that I wrote the first draft of this and shared it on pleonast – my first place to blog! The thing is, though, that it wasn’t just about the singing. It seemed that I revisited it in my mind repeatedly and I knew I wanted to add to the original story.

When Jonathan came up with the idea for the Singing, I began a crusade to counter my cynicism. When I could think of nothing else to say, when doubts enveloped me, when I didn’t want to rain on his parade, I simply used the phrase if you build it, they will come—because I believe in God and I believe in my husband, but sometimes I just don’t believe in others. Sometimes it hurts when you want to believe, but you just can’t seem to make it happen.

I don’t recall how far in advance he started planning the original Singing. He always gives his all to prepare for our gospel meetings and this was no different. Every step of the way, he shared details with me—telling me what he was working on and what his future plans were. He began by organizing the evening. He arranged the song leaders—coordinating with the fall break of a talented young song leader. He planned a flyer and little handout cards. He mailed out plenty of invitations. He designed and assembled songbooks (with permission, of course)…laying them out and calling anyone necessary for permission. He printed them, folded them and stapled them. And they looked great. He went across town to get chairs—loading and unloading—he was planning for a small army. I could not imagine needing extra chairs, parking attendants and special instructions for our little group at Moody. I could not imagine needing hundreds of songbooks. More than a touch of cynicism, perhaps? If you build it, they will come.

He planned and prayed…and believed. He encouraged the congregation to invite. He printed out a flyer for all of us for instructions on the special day. He excitedly told me about each new thing he prepared, showed me the flyers, the songbooks, the handout. If you build it, they will come.

I prayed that his optimism was on target. I prayed that God would bless our efforts. I prayed that God would be glorified. I even prayed that Jonathan would not be disappointed. I often tease him that the stars would align just for him…things just seem to work out for him, often against all odds. I hoped that would be the case with this. So, while my realism and cynicism tried to take over his optimism, I just smiled and hoped and prayed and sent invitations. If you build it, they will come!

When the big day came, I was too busy to be nervous. We had company coming for dinner so I had bread to bake, food to cook, and tidying up to do. And, I prayed. We got there the 40 minutes or so early so we could park in another parking lot (all part of the plan that I willingly followed while silently raising my eyebrows in wonder). And, as I walked across the field, I prayed. And, I greeted my visitors and I thanked God for every one of them. I watched Josh play while the building filled. I took him on his last bathroom run and I realized that the building was full. I saw faces of dozens of people I had invited. I saw lots of faces of those others had invited. I saw people sitting in the extra chairs. I choked back my tears.

 If you build it, they will come! I was humbled. Say to this mountain crossed my mind because I know that sometimes my faith, like that of the disciples who failed to heal the demon possessed boy, is small. Like the father of the boy, I pray and plead, Lord, help me with my unbelief. I still remember when Jonathan sat next to me and we smiled at each other and it was precious to me. I knew that he had believed all along – in my humility I felt peace.  

I believe that my God is big enough. I knew he could fill our little building. At the time, we had about 43 in attendance on Sunday mornings at Moody. On that night, we had 35 of our own and a total of 129 people at our singing. That’s 94 visitors. It was amazing, encouraging, edifying and, yes, humbling. I’ve been to a singing with nearly 1,000 and it was amazing. Still, I’ve never seen 129 people at our little church in Moody. 94 visitors in one night showed me that God answers prayers and rewards faith. To this day I wonder if all my friends who visited knew that they’d moved mountains.

I think of this over and over again. I am reminded of it when life has challenges that seem, well, challenging! I am reminded of this when Jonathan has hope about something – anything – and I’m overwhelmed and I know that I need a bigger faith. I know that when my faith in men grows weak, I only need to look above. I know that God can still the raging seas. I know that God can give peace to breaking hearts. I know that God will carry us through even when we can’t lift another foot. I believe, Lord, help me with my unbelief.

Category: Happenings
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