by Kirk Patston
There are some phrases from the Bible that seem to stick in our minds. Isaiah 40 ends with a verse that was destined to be an inspirational poster:
Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
Chris Tomlin has written a song called Everlasting God that takes up these ideas. The tune drives on like an athlete gaining stride, and the chorus presses home with a beat as relentless as a train: “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord.”
My son played the drums for that song a few weeks ago. He’s a happy teenager who bears the labels ‘intellectual impairment’ and ‘autism’. He moves around the drum-kit with a sense of style that always makes visitors comment. But he has limits when it comes to tempo. Some days he plays like a tired athlete, like a steam engine starved of coal.
I watched him drum and felt Tomlin’s song grinding down. Its repetition was sounding more tedious than inspiring. I was clenching my fists and jiggling my legs, willing him to play faster. He didn’t. I found myself feeling fussy about the artistic integrity of the song we were singing. I felt a bit embarrassed. The whole congregation had to deal with a song that was obviously dragging, in a church where the music’s usually slick and uplifting.
We continued to sing:
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint; You won’t grow weary
You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles
I could have doubted that God supplies wings to the tired arms of an oblivious drummer. Strength did not rise as I waited and watched.
But my drumming son was smiling, beaming, lost in a joyful place. He was being supported by another young man from church who was tapping the tempo on his shoulder. The rest of the band slowed to stay with him. The congregation sang on and, later, showered my boy with words of encouragement and gratitude.
As a community of love, we were flying like eagles.
Kirk Patston is a husband and father who works as a lecturer in Old Testament. He is currently studying how to connect the Bible and Christian thinking with issues surrounding disability.