I’ve led worship regularly since Drew was born, so – while I’ve nursed babies during the sermon, and snuggled little (and not-so-little) ones during prayer time, I’ve only rarely stood with my family in church as we’ve sung together. It’s only been recently that I’ve even realized the necessary sacrifice that has been – the fact that my children have only known me as “the one who sings the loudest” (as Drew once defined my job to a friend) and not as the one who sings quietly next to them. I love to watch them singing, arm casually slung across their dad’s shoulder, and I trust that God will use my role as “upfront mama” in their lives as much as he does “right-here-with-me mama” but the rare times when I do get to sing with my family are something I now deeply treasure.
This Sunday was one of those opportunities. A gifted group of college students led us beautifully into the throne room through song. They ended their opening worship set with Ascend the Hill’s version of Be Thou My Vision. I was standing fingers intertwined with the man I’ve loved for over 25 years, listening to his beautifully vulnerable voice mix with the gorgeous soprano that proves my oldest boy is still a boy for just a bit longer. Maybe that’s why my mind leapt suddenly back to an unbearably hot day in 1997, when I stood in the back of the church I had grown up in, waiting to walk down the aisle. As a hush fell over the crowd of friends and family that had come to celebrate with us, I stood behind the closed doors of the sanctuary, microphone in trembling hand and sang these words unaccompanied:
Be Thou my vision
O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me
Save that Thou art
Thou and Thou only
Be first in my heart
High King of heaven
My treasure Thou art
That was the very real prayer of my 23-year-old heart that day. As I gave myself in marriage to the only boy I’d ever loved, I prayed that God and God alone would be first in my heart.
Singing those words again this Sunday, almost 20 years later, I was overwhelmed by the full magnitude of that prayer and how little my 23-year-old self knew about what she was even asking.
I had no way of knowing that over the next 20 years God would increase my capacity to love and be loved beyond anything I could ask or imagine. I had no way of knowing that these years of marriage, motherhood and ministry would bring with them priceless treasures, costly treasures, treasures that I would come to cherish more deeply than I thought possible.
When I asked Him to be first in my heart, I had no way of knowing just how full my heart would become.
But He knew.
And even so, He said, “Julie, do you love me more than these?“