Words Matter

A long time ago, words were spoken over me that have stayed with me throughout my life. I doubt she would remember me and I can't even remember her name, only that it was something lovely and old fashioned. I don't know if she's still living but I certainly hope that sweet soul still blesses this earth. She was a tiny, elderly black woman with a kind, warm smile, perfectly dressed every rehearsal. Everyone treated her with much respect. I loved everything about her, the warmth in her smile, her motherly kindness and friendliness to a lonely girl who knew no one there and felt quite out of place.

I was away from home and dealing with my own mother slowly being taken by the cruelty of Alzheimer’s. A friend from my high school music days and I had wound up living in the same town. She was directing a community choir and asked me to be involved. “I need you to sing 'Ave Maria,' you're the only who can do it. You have to do this for me!” She didn't understand how hard it was for me to say yes. I didn't do that anymore. It had been years since I had sung classical music and I had made the choice not to continue on in my studies.

Many of the ladies in the choir barely concealed their resentment of some new girl coming in and “taking” the big solo. Only those with experience in the drama that can exist in small town community choirs would understand. Certainly no one showed any warmth and friendliness but her. She stood out from all the rest. As someone who is quite intuitive and soaks up the emotions coming from others, she was a balm to my soul.

There was no one there for the performance to cheer me on like there used to be. I didn't know anyone in this town. From the start I was uncomfortable with the whole situation but I wanted to use the gift God had given me after years of not using it. I was tired of people asking, “Are you still singing” and my explanations as to why I was not. As former singers know, when you exit the stage for some time it's just hard to go back. You lose your confidence and your vocal strength.

I keenly felt the absence of my mother who had always been my biggest fan.

Waiting to go onstage I started to sweat, my breathing became uneven. It had been too long, I didn't do this anymore and certainly not a classical song that called for range and stamina. She must have sensed my panic. I'm not sure how she knew but she looked at me piercingly...right through me, to the depth of my struggle. She grabbed my arm, threw her head back and said with the emphasis of a revved-up preacher or some prophetess of old, “Honey, the Lord is with you!” She spoke with authority and with passion. Plain, simple, matter of fact words but spoken with such force. Words can have immense power and they flowed over me and right into my very soul and have remained with me ever since. It was an almost mystical moment. And it was Truth. I straightened up and took a breath. Yes, of course she was right, He was with me. He is always with me. Because of her I walked out on that stage, lifted my voice and He was with me. Maybe I didn't live up to my high standards, my voice might have wobbled once but I made it through without humiliating myself or my friend.

Often, I've wished I could tell her what she did for me that day and what the power of those simple words spoken over me meant. I wish I could tell her how throughout my life when I have needed them they have returned to me again and again. I have heard her voice in times of trial, large, and small. What would she think of how God used her that day? Times when I don't think I can go on, there those words are. I'll be forever grateful for the little elderly woman who spoke Truth over me, and may I in turn offer such words to others when they need it.

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