Long ago and far away in my teen years, before the advent of all this newfangled technology, I spent the week or so before family road trips performing one of our favorite traditions: recording our own travel tapes.
Those were the days (am I so old already?) before MP3 players, iPods and all digital music. We listened to music together in the car during the drives to my grandmother’s house in South Carolina: five kids and two parents all cramming our musical tastes onto a few homespun cassettes.
Every family member submitted song requests and then I sat on the living floor buried under towers of CDs and a handful of blank tapes to create the “mix.”
We reveled in the diversity of the playlist, placing songs from popular artists immediately after a selection from one of Wagner’s operas, which came after the Beatles, which followed Andrew Lloyd Weber, which followed Patsy Cline. It was a curious weave of musical styles and statements and we loved it.
The ritual was never complete, though, without squeezing our traditional “Travel Tape Closing Song” onto the last 23 seconds of every single cassette. Twenty-three seconds exactly. That’s just enough time to fit in The Beatles’ song, “Her Majesty.” No travel tape was complete without it.
It’s a quirky little tune thrown in as the final song on The Beatles’ final album, so it seemed a fitting end to our own musical creations.
Somehow the other day, in the same mysterious way that these things always happen, I thought of the song “Her Majesty” and sang it quietly to myself as I peeled potatoes in my kitchen.
Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say. Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she changes from day to day….
Then I thought of endings and the endings of travel tapes and childhood and the closing of a year before the beginning of something new. Another Beatles’ song came to mind from the same album as I made the leap from one curious thought to another.
In that song, Paul McCartney sings, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
And I thought, “That’s just not true. Is it?”
All this life we live, all these daily graces, all this lavish mercy from God in ways we see and ways we don’t….well, there’s no way we could ever repay that. We’re perpetual debtors and yet God erases the account books and sets us free, saying we’re redeemed, paid for, no longer owing or lacking.
I’m no math whiz, but even I can tell you there’s nothing “equal” about it.
That’s the beauty of this story, that God’s always pouring out undeserved mercy, always faithfully giving even when we stubbornly refuse to trust, or obey, or drop to those knees and lift those hands in praise.
It’s the beauty of Elizabeth’s story in Luke 1. All those married years of longing for a baby and remaining childless, month after month of hope unfulfilled. Then God came in His extravagant glory and gave the barren woman a son. Not just any baby boy. The forerunner of the Messiah, cousin to the Savior of mankind.
So much blessing must have knocked her to the floor in tear-filled worship.
After nine months, she cradled that newborn “and when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her” (Luke 1:58, NLT).
The Message reads: “Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.”
Yes, “the Lord had been very merciful to her.” He had “overwhelmed her with mercy,” making her life whole, healing brokenness, fulfilling promises, giving far more than she had ever asked or imagined.
It’s overwhelming mercy that people can’t miss. Everyone saw. Everyone rejoiced with her. No one could mistake God’s mercy for coincidence or fluke or fate. They couldn’t even imagine someone righteous and faithful like Elizabeth and her husband deserving such a miraculous gift. It was all God’s mercy and nothing of their merit.
The people say it themselves in Luke 1:66: “Clearly, God has his hands in this.”
And in the end of an old year and the beginning of something new, that’s what I hope for, a story so amazing I can’t steal any glory away from God. It has to be Him. It’s so clearly His hand, so overwhelmingly full of mercy that there’s no mistaking the imprint of His hand.
It’s not about maintaining some cosmic balance, giving and receiving love in an equilibrium.
It’s about humbly confessing that as much as we pour out in responsive praise, God out-gives us. By that, we are amazed. For that, we are grateful. Because of that, we are saved.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2012 Heather King