Monday, April 24, 2006

April 23, 2006 - Leaning

“What do you think you’re doing there, Wilton, holding up the wall?” The voice of a long-ago gym teacher comes back to me, across the decades. It’s the middle of a worship service, and I’m leaning up against a wall.

Well, it’s not a wall, exactly. It’s the wooden partition that runs alongside the choir loft, that’s about as high as my shoulders. Robin and I are in the middle of presiding at a baptism, during the 11:00 Sunday service. My part in the baptismal liturgy is finished, and my back’s hurting, so I’ve taken a couple of steps backward to lean up against the partition for a minute or two.

I had a professor at Princeton Seminary who would have been appalled at that. Bill taught us in a course, misnamed “The Spoken Word in Worship,” that was really a course in practical theatrics for the worship service. Bill drummed home the message that the things we do in leading worship – the non-verbal gestures and postures – are just as important as what we say. I even taught some of his principles to seminarians myself, back when I was teaching speech at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in the late 1980s.

I’m sure some people can see me leaning, but I’m hoping most eyes will be focused instead on Robin as she baptizes little Emma – a truly adorable baby. Even though we’ve had a guest preacher today and my role in the two worship services is limited, I’m feeling pretty wiped-out by this point in the morning’s proceedings. I’ve been troubled by nagging back pain for the past several days – not something I’m used to, but maybe it’s some late-in-the-game chemo side-effect. If I don’t do something to take the pressure off my aching back, I think to myself, I’ll soon be grimacing in pain, and that wouldn’t look good, either.

So, I lean. I give myself permission to do so. I’ve got cancer, and if that’s what I have to do to be here, fulfilling my most public role as a worship leader, then so be it.

We cancer survivors have to give ourselves permission to lean, sometimes. We lean on our families. We lean on our doctors, nurses and other medical care-providers. We lean on our friends, even though we sometimes feel a little embarrassed to accept such generosity. Most of all, we lean on God.

“I will satisfy the weary,” says the Lord,
“and all who are faint I will replenish.”
– Jeremiah 31:25

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
– Philippians 4:13

1 comment:

Shirin Samuel said...

Lean on the Lord - He will carry you through. My mother was miraculously cured of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. We were all terribly worried and in tears when the diagnosis was made. The Lord has different ways for different ones of us with the same problems. Here's wishing you courage and good cheer and His constant presence. Hope my favourite verse -I Corinthians 10:13 helps.