Lenten Devotion, Thursday, April 7, 2022

Published April 7, 2022 by Angela Bell

Not My Will, But Thine

When I was growing up, my small rural church of fewer than a hundred congregants held spring and fall revivals often. But the year when I was in fifth grade was different. I was ten and I had not yet made a public profession of faith—something that concerned my mother greatly. Shockingly (as in, not at all), I tend not to do things if I feel pressured by someone else, so I had no intention of going forward during any of the nightly altar calls. I'd take care of that in my own time, when I was ready, and when it was my idea.

That spring's revival culminated with Sunday worship. That morning, I sat in the back with other youth the way I normally did. As usual, most of us paid partial attention to the sermon, but I always sang the hymns with gusto. Even then, music and singing were vital facets of my identity. That morning the invitational hymn was one of my very favorites, an upbeat song when they were typically slow and mournful. Excited about the choice, I opened the hymnal to the appropriate page and began to sing. I didn't get very far.

A few phrases into the first stanza, my throat closed, my vision blurred, and I felt pressure on my shoulders that couldn't be ignored. I shook my head a few times, tried to ignore it, and attempted to resume singing, but it didn't work. Somehow, I knew that I was in the presence of God, and I had no choice but to follow His call.

On the way to the aisle, I passed my sister who was sitting in the same row. My father sat just behind me at the back of the church, while my mother was at the front playing the organ (less steadily than normal when she saw me in the aisle). My path took me by my grandmother near the front of the sanctuary and in direct sight of my grandfather who was leading the hymn in his high tenor voice. At the altar, my preacher met me and prayed with me before sharing my decision with the rest of my church family. The details of that morning are burned into my memory with vivid detail, and I'll never forget the inability to do anything but act on what I knew was happening—God claiming me as His.

It's been almost exactly thirty-five years to the day as I write this devotional. Since then, many years have passed, and God's voice has faded from glaringly obvious to much subtler nudges that are easier to miss or ignore. On that spring morning a few weeks before Easter (celebrated that year on April 19), I had a spiritual lightbulb moment. Thankfully, God is more tenacious than I am stubborn, although probably not by much.

Angela Bell has a Ph.D. in American religious history and is a professor of history at Lone Star College-CyFair. She is a member of the Sanctuary Choir, Chamber Choir, South Main Bronze, Discovery Day Team, Agape Sunday School Community, and currently serves on the Discipleship Committee. She is the proud aunt of Christian and John Wade and cat mom to Sox and Smudge. Against her better judgment, and often to her detriment, she remains very stubborn.