God is building you a team, even if you feel alone.
It was 5am, 14 degrees, and still dark. If I wanted to get to the airport in time for my flight, I had no choice but to shovel this path…again. It’s always nice to visit California, but when one’s hometown of Boston has had more snow than at any other time in the history of the universe, and one’s house looks like an oversized meringue, it’s especially nice to visit California. 75 degrees, with a chance of earthquakes, sounds like a perfect forecast.
I took a few more shovels full of snow and stopped to stretch. My back was sore from shoveling this same narrow path almost every day for the past six weeks. And every time I shovel, it fills right back up with snow. As a single parent of a child with autism, I will admit – it’s tough to do the hard work of every day, and it’s easy to feel like I’m doing it alone. I wanted to walk back into my house and wait for global warming. But 1,000 people from 50 different countries were coming to this disability conference in California hosted by Joni and Friends. Many were traveling difficult paths.
So I kept shoveling.
By the time I arrived at the Global Access conference in Los Angeles, I had completely forgotten about anything cold. I walked through the doors of the conference just in time for afternoon worship. The stage was brightly lit and the music team was singing, “You are the everlasting God.” Gauzy white drapes hung from the sky-high ceiling of the sanctuary and captured the light mid-air. I breathed in the music, the voices, the magnificence of it all.
All around me there were people, of every color and culture and age, of every ability and disability. And every one of us held the same hope: to see the doors of the church open wider to those with disabilities. I stood in the back of the sanctuary so that I could witness everything, and everyone. The dancing hadn’t started yet, the conga line lead by Joni, the joy-filled worship that would later consume the back of the sanctuary. For now, we stood side by side, leaning on the Lord and each other, lifting our hearts and voices.
The woman beside me was tall and strong, with a shock of blonde hair that flew behind her like wild flames. In the middle of the song she reached for my hand and raised it into the air. She lifted it higher than I could have done on my own. I laughed a bit, as I had to stand on tiptoes. I then turned to the woman on the other side of me. She was beautiful and frail, her limbs no longer cooperating. I reached for her hand and gently lifted her arm, waiting for her approval. Her smile filled the whole sanctuary as we sang together to the Lord,
“You’re the defender of the weak.
You comfort those in need.
You lift us up on wings like eagles.”
Tears began to stream down my cheeks. Worship is different when it comes from a place of brokenness, when there are 1000 people in a room who know a “fix” may not come in this world, but whose hope is in Jesus Christ. Worship is different when we lift our souls to God, while we reach for those beside us to help carry their burdens.
I looked around the church, all of us with arms raised, worshiping in every language yet with one voice. And I couldn’t help but think back to the many years when my son and I were home on Sunday mornings. Like so many families, we had not yet found our way into the church. The thought of it stabbed me in the heart. But on this day, at this conference, there is hope. God is drawing us together from around the globe so that no one will be forgotten. He wants his church to be full.
Our 1,000 voices became so loud that I thought the roof was going to lift right off, the way a convertible opens up to let in the warmth of the California sunshine.
“Our God, you reign forever.
Our hope, our strong deliverer.”
I squeezed the hands of the two women beside me, and we helped each other lift our hands just a little bit higher.
By Emily Colson