2 For 1 Deal
July 26, 2008
“Take your hymnals and turn to page 369”, are words I dread hearing from the mouth of our church songleader.
Hymn 369 is the only hymn in the whole book for which I know the number.
Hymn 369 is not something I gave 2 flips about 8 years ago. I recall kinda liking it.
Hymn 369 is not a bad song, in fact, it’s a very nice song as far as church hymns go.
Hymn 369 makes me hurt inside.
Hymn 369 makes me cry.
Hymn 369, in the United Methodist Hymnal is “Blessed Assurance”. Hearing it takes me back to a crowded funeral chapel on a sunny Sunday afternoon in early February. The funeral of my best friend Becky.
On the day of the funeral I remmember my mom rushing me after church to get a move on so that we could eat and get to the funeral home in time to get a good seat. I remember contemplating the absurdity of her request, and making an off color joke or 2 about her haste, after all, “people are dying to get in.”
I remember my mom gently prodding me to take a, “mild nerve pill”, which she had in hand, as we finished our lunch at the local Subway.
I remember being touched by, “interperative movement” to the song, “What if I Stumble” performed during the service by Becky’s church’s youth group.
I remember thinking how dead-on the use of the song, “Thank You” was, and how completely inapproporiate the use of Tim McGraw’s, “My Best Friend” was for a young lady who had never had a real boyfriend.
I remember Becky’s pastor saying that on the Wednesday night prior, Becky had sang the song, “Blessed Assurance”, during their service. He went on to recite several lines of the song. Months later her parents would have the words, “Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine” engraved on her headstone.
I don’t remember much else about the service itself. Everything else that was said and done, must’ve all been blocked out by my grief, the passage of time, and the mild nerve pill.
Becky and I had been friends since elementary school. She was 3 years older than I, and shortly after meeting on the school bus she transfered to a private Christian school. We only lived a few miles apart, and kept our friendship going through sleepovers, playdates (back then we called them, “coming over”), and daily phone conversations.
I went to many church events with her, and occasionally she would attend mine. She was Southern Baptist to my Methodist. Two religions that are similar, yet very different. My Sunday morning services last one hour. Her services lasted until someone came forward to be saved, no matter how long it took.
What I recall most about the Baptist experiences of my youth is the revivals and youth rally’s I attended with both Becky and my other BFF Jaime. It seemed like there was alot of pressure to get saved right then and there. I also noticed that there was a lot of praising, and maybe a little bragging, each night about how many were saved the night before. I often felt a little shunned because I wouldn’t come forward and profess my faith on cue. I was warned many times that if I died on the way home I would spend eternity in hell. I wondered what gave some stranger the right to judge me in that way, knowing nothing about my character or actions. I wondered how they could honestly believe that I would go to hell, and someone who did go forward, but didn’t really mean it, wouldn’t.
There have been a two posts that I have intended to write for quite some time. One about Becky’s death, one about being pressured to be saved by other religions. Last Sunday our new pastor preached a wonderful sermon about the absurdity of being afraid of God. He told stories of going to a thing called, “Judgement House”, during his youth. I had never been to one, but his depiction was what I expected. The tour took you through a day in the life of 2 different young people, a good one and a bad one. They both die and the good one goes to “heaven”, an air conditioned room with lots of comfy ammenities. The bad one goes to “hell”, a heated room with screaming and torturing.
After touring both areas, the group was then led into a room and asked individually which place they liked better, and pressured them to get saved, in case they died on the way home.
The whole story reminded me of the church experiences of my youth with Becky. Then my pastor added that he didn’t appreciate being put on the spot at the Judgement House experience, and that he thought it morbid that they pressured the attendees with the thought of them dying. He, like most of us, had lost friends to death, and didn’t want to think of going that way, and that soon.
After hearing a wonderful sermon, which brought memories of my youth, and my friendship with Becky, the service was concluded with hymn 369.