In the Middle of It All

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Black woman laughing

I was face to face with my image in the mirror, mascara wand in hand, mouth open and eyebrows raised - the pose I strike when it’s time for mascara. There, in that dignified pose before my bathroom mirror, a song popped into my head. “Don’t wait ‘til the battle is over – shout now!” the lyrics challenged, and I could hear the drumbeat in my mind.

Shout. As in, get happy. Or better yet, get your praise on. The way we did on Sunday mornings when we managed for a moment to truly lay our burdens down. On those Sunday mornings, I’d sit on the front pew, all the way over to the right. Next to the window.

Women in furs, wide-brimmed hats, silk stockings, and rich perfume fanned themselves with colorful Japanese hand fans. Sometimes they’d snap those fans shut when the preaching got good. They would stand to their feet and they’d jab the fans into the air to punctuate their shouts of “Amen!” or “Hallelujah!" Other times, they’d just keep fanning as they swayed back and forth, whispering with eyes closed shut, “Yes, Lord,” or “Thank you, Jesus.”

Men in three-piece suits with flashy ties, pocket squares, and cuff-links that glittered in the sunlight would lean forward with their elbows on their knees and spur the preacher on. “All right, now!” they’d shout. They’d elbow one another and nod in agreement.

The preacher’s voice would ease into a spirited cadence and his words would become a poem. The pianist would find notes and lay down a paisley carpet beneath those words, and the sermon would become a duet, with the congregation shouting out “Amen!” in unison, at the end of each stanza.

By now, we’d all be on our feet. The preacher would have long since come out from behind the pulpit and down into the aisle, worshipping right along with us, letting our attention shift from him to where it belonged.

I remember, on one of those Sunday mornings, I caught a glimpse of a woman in the choir whose son was sitting in a jailhouse. She was waiting to hear if he’d ever come home. Standing tall, she lifted her hands toward heaven and shouted out her praise.

Another Sunday I watched a man bent over. The hands of fellow worshippers rested on the outline of shoulder blades that stood like rough edges beneath his designer jacket. Before the year was over, his body would surrender to the virus that had taken hold. But on this day, he sang praises to God in a voice that must have been a gift straight from heaven to this earth.

This was what they meant when they sang those words: “Don’t wait ‘til the battle is over – shout now!”

I lowered the mascara wand and leaned heavy on the edge of the bathroom sink, remembering my helpless cries to God from the night before. I’d taken up three pages in my journal with questions about why and for how long and will it ever change? And here, in the freshness of a brand new day, the memory of this song dropped in my mind.

I shook my head as I remembered that mother’s son, who had stayed in the jailhouse much longer than we’d hoped. I breathed heavily, remembering we’d buried that man with the beautiful voice, long before he had lived his life. I thought of their praises, in the middle of it all. Then I gazed back at myself in the mirror. Putting on mascara would be pointless. My own praise was welling up the way it had with Jeremiah, and I wished I had a Japanese fan to raise into the air.

Instead, I found an easy cadence that matched the drumbeat I still heard in my mind. My head bobbed slightly to the beat and I gently swayed from side to side. I joined my raspy little voice with the song that ran freely in my head: “Don’t wait ‘til the battle is over – shout now!”

In that moment, it didn’t really matter why or how-long or will-it-ever-change. What mattered was getting my praise on, right there in my bathroom. Smack dab in the middle of it all.

Image by Evelyn Onobrouche. Used with permission via Flickr. Post by Deidra Riggs.