I had the wonderful privilege of attending a Sandi Patty concert last night for the very first time. It is her farewell tour and I knew I would regret not attending so I got 2 tickets and brought a friend from church me to see what I knew would be a wonderful concert.
I have always felt a kinship with Ms. Patty. I remember clearly the very first time I heard her sing. A college friend brought me a cassette recording of her first concert and as she told her story of learning how to play piano with the red and white John Thompson books, I giggled, smiling and nodding at the memory. As she spoke of beginning to sing after realizing her piano skills were somewhat lacking, my heart warmed as I felt that I, too, had failed in the expectations there. And as she spoke of wanting to be Karen Carpenter,I laughed out loud at the images of me singing into my hairbrush and dreaming of being the one singing on the Johnny Carson show on late night television.
The more Ms. Patty spoke,the closer I felt with her. I even day dreamed that perhaps we were somehow family – that my birth parents were part of her wonderful family and they would find me one day and bring me into the fold so I could be a part of her amazing ministry.
Sandi Patty’s musical legacy is astonishing. With over 40 Dove (Christian Music) Awards, you would never guess that she at one time was ostracized from the Christian musical community.
But she was.
As Ms. Patty spoke about the failure of her marriage and the subsequent fallout, my heart broke for her and her family…
…and I found another sense of kinship.
You see, I too failed at marriage (twice) and I, too, received judgement and criticism from those from whom I had hoped to receive support. Clearly, my divorce was not national news and it didn’t put a tremendously successful career on pause while I recovered, but one of the significant results was the same.
Ms. Patty spoke of going to church one day and hiding on the back corner of the pew not wanting anyone to recognize her, see her or interact with her. She was hiding from everyone and everything including God. Somewhere in her mind, maybe she thought, “if only I tuck myself far enough into the corner of my mind, nobody will see me sitting here in plain sight.” She spoke of this as she relayed a story of her 2 1/2 year old grandchild who plays hide and seek and “hides” essentially in the middle of the room. The child doesn’t want to be hidden from those he loves, he simply wants the joy of being found – of having someone love him enough and care enough about him to want him in their presence.
Often, however, our pain keeps us from wanting to be in anyone’s presence. We are so focused on our own issues, we truly do want to hide in the deepest, darkest hold imaginable and just wait for the world to pass us by.
As I listened to this story, I couldn’t help feel an immediate connection to the way I felt in the days and months leading up to and immediately after my separation from my 2nd husband.
Though I was recovering from several surgeries on my head and struggling with severe depression, I tried to attend church when I could but found myself desperately trying to make myself invisible sitting in the pew. I wore black, I hung my head and found myself absolutely unable to respond to anyone with anything greater than a nod of my head and a weak smile. I truly didn’t want to be seen let alone found.
Looking back, I know that I probably hurt many people who were trying to reach out – trying to find a way to help, but I was absolutely unable to see that light from where my heart and soul were hiding. As an aside, if any reading this post were there during that time, let me just take time moment to truly apologize to you for any pain I caused you. I know you were trying to help. I was just unable to accept it.
What made it so much more difficult is that I was living in this terrible dichotomy of time and space. On the one hand, I ached for someone to find me. I wanted friends and family to be able to read my mind somehow and understand how much I was struggling and for them to be able to look inside my heart and see the pain there and find a way to help. I wanted God to reach down and pluck me out of the midst of this pain and put me somewhere else just so I didn’t have to go through this one more second.
On the other hand, I was so ashamed that I was failing yet again that I didn’t want anyone to acknowledge my presence at all. I would have been thrilled if the cloak of invisibility from the Harry Potter books was an actuality so I could have hidden myself beneath its spellbound presence and been able to drink in the presence of God from the music, the scripture and the sermon while being able to be completely unseen by anyone including God.
I was, as Ms Patty stated last night, playing hide and seek with God.
I wanted to stand in the middle of the room and pretend I couldn’t be seen and to have God find me in the depths of my despair and pull me out. To place me in His lap and console me.
Looking back, I realize that God had done this but I was so full of self-loathing and depression I simply couldn’t see it. I also realize now that even holding me in His lap to console me would not in any way mean that I wouldn’t have gone through the things that were ahead of me.
Like all of us, I was tasked with walking through the mess that I had helped to create. This was not avoidable and the lessons would not come easy, but as the book of Galatians reminded me then and still does today, the end rewards are only seen when we persevere.
Now, I am far from Super Woman and I was most definitely tired during the season of my life, but I can say that I didn’t give up. I fought hard to make it to where I am today. I am no longer hiding from God, but I am continually shouting to Him to come find me.
Come find me in my joy and celebrate with me.
Come find me in my loneliness and hold my hand as I walk through this.
Come find me as I move into a new season of my life and see where it leads.
Now, more than ever, I want to be found. I want to be that 2 1/2 year old standing in the middle of the room crying out to God “Come find me”, secure in knowledge that He knows exactly where I am at all times and He will always long to have me in His presence.
Sandi Patty’s tour is entitled Forever Grateful, a way for her to express her gratefulness both to her audience as they have traveled the last few decades with her as to God as He has allowed her to travel this road. But I wish to say this to Ms. Patty:
I am forever grateful to her for showing me that being who I am – that precocious little girl who wanted to be Karen Carpenter – is ok; that being a divorced woman is ok; and that being able to lift my voice in song in praise of my Lord is not only acceptable,but reflection of my love to the One who created the fallible human that I am.
Yes, Ms. Patty, I, too am forever grateful.