I have always been fascinated how it is that a handful of experiences in our lives can assume a magnitude so much greater than the many millions of other events that occur on a daily basis.
This entry is about one such meaningful experience in my life and also how it continues to live on. I would like to share it here with those persons I love and care about, and for those others who may read this and wonder if God really cares about them.
From time to time, when I close out communications with people whom I care about and love, I use the acronym GBWYTWMA or "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again."
It is the title of a Christian hymn. I express it as an acronym merely out of convenience. It resides in my heart fully expanded in meaning, and in its prayers for those to whom I say it.
As robust as human life is, it is also a thing of fragile beauty that can be taken away in the blink of an eye. I never want to be parted from anyone again (whether going down the street or across the ocean) without leaving them with those words or that acronym. If I say those words to you, don't worry, I don't mean it as some sort of benediction! I'm not planning on kicking off, nor am I expecting your demise either! It just makes me feel wonderful to know that I've asked God to be with you and guide you and counsel you and surround you until I get to share in your presence again.
In all reality, it is impossible for me to even consider those words without being taken back to the moment, nearly 58 years ago, when they took on a magnitude of meaning in my life that lasts until this day. For me, those words, the title to that great hymn, are linked to God, and how he reached out through others, through Evelyn, and through friends in my life today who touch my life.
So, okay, what about Evelyn? How does she fit into this?
When I was 6 years old, I attended a large Methodist Church and being somewhat of a “show-off” I would march down the center aisle every Sunday morning and evening to sit in the front row all by myself. Usually, there were 3-4 empty rows behind me. I suppose that was due to the size of the church.
When services were over, people would always give me lots of praise for being such a good boy and sitting and listening intently to the sermon. Being a “show-off” I thought I had everyone fooled. Perhaps, I did. I just didn’t fool God. Frankly, I don’t remember too much of what the minister said in those days. I’m not so sure he didn’t find the presence of such a young person staring at him intently for the entire sermon to be a bit disarming. I was a scary kid.
Besides, at that age, it was hard work sitting there, pretending to be interested as he droned on and on. I often entertained myself by looking at the stained glass windows and wondering various things about the images of the disciples and also of Christ. I recall they were always barefooted. I thought that was a cool thing to do, and wondered why I had to wear shoes. But that’s another post, let’s return to the topic.
Near the end of one particular Sunday evening service, the pastor welcomed a new member of the choir whom he noted had taken professional voice training. He said we were fortunate to have her in our choir. She was a soprano. Her name was Evelyn.
At six years of age, from the moment I first saw Evelyn from my front row vantage point, I found myself feeling what I can only describe as my first crush. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Of course, at that age, I had seen many women! On that first Sunday, the minister announced that the benediction on Sunday evening would take the form of word and song and the song would always be: “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.” He commented that Evelyn was to sing the song solo with the choir providing soft backup.
As I said, when I saw Evelyn, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. And, then, when she sang the benediction hymn, “God Be With You Til We Meet Again,” I was certain of it. Evelyn had the most beautiful voice I had ever heard. The meaningful way in which she sang the song and the words of the song gripped my heart, and made me want to cry. For, you see, my mother left me at 3 months of age. That hurt, a lot, at that age. In any event, my crush on Evelyn was rather total. I spent the next two years wondering if I could somehow become her boyfriend when I was a little older! Of course, she was an aging 30, and the math simply didn’t work out!
Some Sundays later, I found myself actually pondering the words to Evelyn’s benediction hymn when she sang it on Sunday evenings. The words of the song always spoke to my heart, made me feel that God was always right there for me, and I left church happy. Somehow, I always imagined Evelyn was singing the song to me. It brings a smile to my face now, but Evelyn never knew she had a six-year old boyfriend sitting in the front row waiting to hear her sing “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.”
I never got a chance to tell you, Evelyn, but thank you for letting God work through you to reach out to me when I was a mere child.
Here are the words. The words are by J.E. Rankin and the Music by W.G. Tomer...
God be with you till we meet again, By his counsels guide uphold you,
With his sheep securely fold you, God be with you till we meet again.
Till we meet, till we meet, Till we meet at Jesus' feet,
Till we meet, till we meet, God be with you till we meet again.
God be with you till we meet again, 'Neath his wings protecting, hide you,
Daily manna still provide you, God be with you till we meet again.
God be with you till we meet again, Keep love's banner floating o'er you, Smite death's threat'ning wave before you, God be with you till we meet again.
With that bit of history unveiled, let me reconnect with the moment … with June 2007.
It occurs to me, all these years later, I have been so incredibly blessed all my life to have always had other people and God’s angels watching over me and protecting me. It has taken me an amazing long time to figure out that I have never been alone since my short little legs took me down the aisle of that Methodist Church at six years of age where I first heard Evelyn sing.
Yes, at the time, I somehow fantasized she was singing that song to me. I now know beyond all doubt that the Lord Jesus was working in my life through Evelyn's beautiful voice.
I heard someone say recently: Dream every day as if you will live forever, and live every day as if it were your last. In that spirit, let me say this…
God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again!!!
I love you all.