It Is WellPosted June 2nd, 2011
by Angela M. Knight
The date was August 17, 2004. It wasn’t really a significant date, but it may remain emblazoned on my memory much like June 3, 1997, the date that I received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis—and a happy June 8, 1999, the date of my twin daughters’ birth.
I was asked to sing two songs at church that August day in 2004. I opted to play one piece on the flute, as the offertory, and I already knew what song I would sing. It was titled “If You Want Me To.” It sounded much like my own life struggles. Mom had purchased the music book and CD at a concert where the song was performed, and I had decided I would definitely share this song when the right opportunity came along.
Having played piano for nearly twenty-five years, I had often played to accompany my singing—sometimes songs that I had written myself. However, the MS has caused my left hand to lack the dexterity it once had, so it had been nearly two years since I had accompanied myself in public. I found the recorded accompaniment on CD, which I thought would work well.
“If You Want Me To” was written by Ginny Owens, a musician who plays piano, sings, and happens to be blind. Knowing that her life was filled with unique struggles, I thought that my own physical struggles would speak through her song:
The pathway is broken, the signs are unclear,
And I don’t know the reason why You’ve brought me here.
But just because You love me the way that You do,
I’m gonna walk through the valley if You want me to.
I have felt from the start of my MS journey that my life would somehow be used through this struggle. I arranged to speak before the song so I could share its personal meaning. I was going to share a text from 2 Corinthians 12—about how His strength can be made perfect in my own weakness. I also wanted to share about the significance of the hymn I was going to play: “It Is Well With My Soul.” When life is peaceful and flowing like a river, or when the waves crash in on the shores of life, I can still have the peace of Christ in my soul. This is what I had planned to say.
Impromptu Speech and Drama
Now, when I was in high school, I was not athletic, but I did love to speak and perform. As president of the drama club and captain of the speech team, I was used to being in front of people. In fact, I won the state championship in impromptu speaking—an event in which the speaker receives a topic, then gives a three-to-five minute speech thirty seconds later.
When I became a middle school teacher, I thought that “impromptu” had been perfect preparation for the classroom. What I didn’t know was that it would also prepare me for a day in church, where I would be sharing from my heart.
I normally played in our church’s praise band, and I was used to walking up and down, to and from the stage. I had a stand for my music up on the stage. The setup was a bit different than normal, though. Our small town has a Labor Day Festival each year, and our church would be distributing cups of cold water to passers-by outside during the festival. The cups were plastic, with a logo and message on them, and they were displayed for the congregation this particular morning in two precariously stacked pyramids on a narrow folding table. They looked really sharp. Until later.
So I played the offertory, standing on the main floor of the sanctuary. Because only my fingers, not my entire hand, move when playing the flute, I could still pull it off. I was happy with the sound, though it may have been a little shaky.
“If You Want Me To” was to follow, so I put down the flute, turned toward the stage, and prepared to step up. Right foot—no problem. Feeling slightly unsteady, I did what came naturally, reaching to the right to steady myself on the table, just to keep my balance as the left foot lifted. But the solid wooden table that was usually there was missing. I instinctively reached to the folding table holding the plastic cups, to maintain my balance.
Should Have Seen It Coming
I should have seen it coming. Just that slight jostling was enough to send the precarious pyramids of cups careening down onto the stage, on down the steps, and out across the floor. You can imagine the cacophony. Then, startled, I failed to take another successful step, and instead joined the cups in tripping and falling, face down.
Recently, tripping had become a more common occurrence with me, and I was not phased by this as much as by the cascading cups. So I stood up, shakily, making my way up the two remaining steps (yes, there was a person who came up, prepared to assist me, but I didn’t notice him until later). I then took the microphone.
I am all for dramatic entrances and creative introductions, but I must say this was a bit much. Still, I did have everyone’s attention.
It didn’t occur to me that people were concerned I might have hurt myself. I was thinking about what I was going to say, and I was embarrassed about scattering the pyramids of cups. Face planting on stage in the midst of careening cups was not an “impromptu topic” I had encountered. But now, suddenly, here it was.
First, I let the audience know that, though unplanned, the entrance was related to what I was about to share. I went on to tell about my MS, how it was having more and more of an effect on my life since it first entered several years ago. Then I shared how happy I was to have been able to share “It Is Well With My Soul” as the offertory, and its meaning in my own life. It is well with my soul, though it may not be so with this body of mine.
Then I made it through Ginny Owens’ song without crying, though I came close. It wasn’t until I made it back to my seat that I realized I hadn’t shared the meaning in my own life of 2 Corinthians 12. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. Perhaps that message got across anyway.
By the end of the song, there weren’t very many dry eyes in the place. I was later approached by several church members and told, in one way or another, that my words were just what they needed. If I had walked up and had spoken as planned, it wouldn’t have been as meaningful.
I didn’t want that embarrassing scene to happen, but maybe it’s just what we all needed to see: our weakness—His strength.