Thursday, May 20, 2010
The Consistency of His Presence (Part 2) - The Voice Next to Mine
Years ago I went to Russia to teach English to teenagers at a church camp. I learned so much that summer. One of God’s lessons came when I visited, as a tourist, a Russian Orthodox Church.
The cathedral was dimly lit. Saints were immortalized as icons on the walls. There were no chairs or pews.
I stood among the crowd of Russians with my hair covered by a shawl, as was the rule. I looked around, watching for the perfect Kodak moment.
Then God talked to me.
Worship me, Robbie. Forget your surroundings and worship.
I began to listen. The words were in Russian and the singers all sang acapello. I didn’t recognize the tune, and I wondered if everyone was singing in different keys.
Lord, I know this must be beautiful to You, but all I hear is a cacophony of out of tune jibberish.
Robbie, listen to the voice next to yours.
I focused and heard a loud pleading singer. I glanced to my right and saw an old woman. A four feet, wrinkled face babushka. Her eyes were closed and she looked as if she was a beggar pleading. My heart softened when I saw her tears.
I closed my eyes again and felt remorse.
Lord, I’m sorry. This is a place of worship, not a a vacation slide.
Robbie, listen to her.
I listened and I began to worship.
It wasn’t thrilling like singing with a worship band. It wasn’t traditional spurred by a choir singing hymns. This moment of worship was filled with awe and a quietness of heart. It was about listening to God and the voice next to mine.
Robbie, this is your grandmother in Christ.
My eyes opened quickly. I was pretty sure God had just made a tiny error.
But Lord, she is worshipping here.
What if she hasn’t said the sinner’s prayer?
As soon as I said it, my eyes were opened to the sinful prejudice I possessed being from America, God’s “number one country." What a fool I am, I thought. The sinner’s prayer is not even in the Bible.
This is your grandmother in Christ.
I opened my heart to what God wanted to teach me and I discovered how a worship experience, unlike any other of my life, could deepen my walk with God and my love for my neighbor in just the space of a few minutes.
After the music ended, I opened my eyes to turn to the babushka and utter the few words of conversational Russian I knew. She was gone.
I will see her again. When I get to heaven, I will meet her. We won’t talk in English or Russian. We won’t discuss Presbyterian theology versus Russian Orthodox theology. We’ll come together in unity and in the grace that God rescued us both. And we will worship, my babushka in Christ and I. She will be the voice next to mine.