I was in a religious ed class several weeks ago, and at one point before the class ended, I asked the kids, “Does anyone here ever talk to God?” It got silent. Two hands were raised. The rest nodded no. So then I asked the kids who raised their hands, “How do you feel after talking to God?” One girl jumped up: “Free!” The other boy smiled and interjected, “Safe!” Wow.
Maybe you know the story of the Israelites and their crossing the Red Sea. They spent 400 years as slaves, and then God and Moses have some conversations, and the next thing you know, unimaginable miracles are happening and the Israelites leave their slavery. They get to the Red Sea, and, again unimaginably, the sea parts and they can cross over to the other side and escape from their former masters who were chasing them. When they finally get to the other side, the sea closes over their pursuers, and in that moment, they’ve experienced what it’s like to have an experience with God. For the first time in 400 years, they are free and safe.
And the first thing they do is sing a new song.
Recently, the kids in the religious ed program here were asked to prepare a Christmas carol to sing at the Christmas celebration. The teachers picked a song out, and spent a meeting or two practicing it with the kids. A week before the program, they met again to practice, and the kids were still singing under their breath. It was like slavery. The meetings were laborious, with teachers trying to motivate the kids to sing, and nothing working. So, I prepared a game. After disappearing for a while, I returned to announce to the class that there were 15 little sheep – taken from the church’s manger scene – hidden throughout the property, with a candy inside each one. It was time to go and find the lost sheep. Ready, set, … and gone … We did it two or three times, they loved the game. And when we were done, we went back into the classroom, and this time, I tell you, the singing flowed! No frustrating motivation required by the teachers. That’s what happens when we feel free and safe: we’re ready to sing.
Mary arrives at the house of Elizabeth, and the first thing she does is sing a new song. It is probably the most famous and rich song in all of the Bible. She comes ready to sing because she has just had a conversation with God. She feels free and safe.
Every now and then while I’m in Ecuador, I disappear and get away to a location where I can be alone, to be with God and relax a bit and reflect. I go to a certain hostel there, and recently I showed up and was brought to a room. While the housekeeper was giving me the key, she said in a low voice, “I’m also giving you the secret key to another bathroom that you can have for yourself.” Oh, and did I mention that I get a discount each time, too? I get a discount and a secret key to a private bathroom for a reason. Let me explain.
Let’s say that the owners have a swell in guests while I’m there, and they would really like to rent my room for more money. No problem, I say. And I go to where it’s more convenient for them. When it’s time to leave, I strip the bed and put everything together and make it as easy as possible for the staff to put on the new sheets. (Sometimes I might leave some chocolate.) When I leave, the bathroom is like no one was even ever there (except for the singing I leave behind). I bring others to the hostel there when passing through. So, I have become good friends with the staff and owners, and, in short, this is why I get the discount and the special attention: because I don’t make work for them; I lighten the load. I make them feel free and safe. I am a servant.
That’s what conversation with God can do: make us free and safe to sing a new song in life, free and safe to be servants, and get the perks that go along with that.
Everything begins with a conversation with God. Don’t worry about the other things of life or religion, all that will still be there, it all can wait. God wants to meet us, to give us something that will make us want to sing a new song, something that we can pass along to others, and receive all the special perks that come with it.
God want to make us free and safe.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” (Lk 1:46-47)