I must have listened to Aretha sing Joy to the World a dozen times yesterday. It brought me to my feet, brought me back to life, and reminded me of a time when a much less glorious version of that Christmas song brought someone else to life.
We were caroling at a nursing home – just a few friends, with my husband doing his best on guitar. Nursing homes are always one of our favorite places to visit during the holidays. It’s pure joy to watch the residents clap their hands and sing along and, sometimes, share their childhood memories of Christmases long past.
We sang in the halls, in the dining room, and then started going room to room, singing for those who were bed-bound. We were about to enter one room when an aide stopped us. She kindly told us that this gentleman had been unresponsive for a long time. I believe the phrase she used was – no one’s home – and she felt our time would be better spent elsewhere. We told her we weren’t in a hurry and asked permission to enter his room.
He sat in a wheelchair facing the wall, with his eyes closed. He didn’t respond when we greeted him or asked about his favorite Christmas Carol. He didn’t move a muscle. The aide shot us a glance that clearly said I told you so, but we decided to sing anyway. We chose Joy to the World because it was one of our more lively tunes.
By the time we got to the end of verse one – and heaven and nature sing – a slight movement in his feet caught our eye. By the time we got to the phrase, repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, he was robustly tapping his toes in time to the music. His eyes remained closed, his body was still as a statue, but his feet told the story.
Someone was definitely home.
I don’t know how many verses we sang; I do remember we didn’t want to stop. We kept staring at his toes, astonished at what we were witnessing. We were amazed at the power of music to unlock the deepest places in a man. We were also reminded that we look only at a man or woman’s outer appearance. We make judgments based on what we can see with our eyes, but God knows the intricate inner workings of every human heart. He sees, loves, and stops for each one.
Whether it’s a beloved spouse with dementia, a drug-addicted son, a prodigal daughter, or our own wayward hearts, God specializes in reaching the unreachable. There is always hope.
So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! – Romans 8:38-39 (Passion Translation )