On KCTS tonight, a concert is being rebroadcast of James Taylor and Carole King, from 2007. When I turned to it, James (as I like to call him!) began singing "Going to Carolina in My Mind." Yes, at exactly that moment, as if I had been meant to turn to that concert just then. I raised my hands like I was in church, turned up the volume and started singing. Beve and E came down from the other end of the house, E saying, "I knew you'd be watching this, if you saw that it was on tonight." See, "Going To Carolina" was something of a theme song in my life when I was in college. Whenever it came on the radio in a car I was in, it was instantly turned up, like the song was written for me, like I was the destination someone--maybe the whole car--was headed toward. I remember trying to explain very earnestly that the song was, in fact, about the states, North and South, but my friends just laughed at me for being 'a literal English major.' But secretly, of course, I loved that I had a song. Or two of them, actually. Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" was the song people sang to me. Including Beve in some of his more goofy moments.
It's amazing, though, how songs can take us back. Viscerally pick up out of our family rooms where we're sitting with our dogs and husbands and middle-aged lives, and thrust us back in time to where we're sitting in some 1965 cherry-red Chevy Impala, wearing bell-bottoms, our hair firmly parted down the middle. The kids smashed into that car with us (well before seatbelt laws) are people we haven't seen since our last high school reunion, if then, but I can feel them beside me as James sings as if we were just on our way out to go ice-blocking tonight on the golf course. One such night after one no more wild ride than any other, my bra broke. That's right, it busted right in half down the front as I was sitting on that ice block with my buddy GT. It's telling about my friendships with all those boys I grew up with that I told him. But there wasn't really much choice. So GT suggested I leave it on a bush right there on the golf course. And, though he couldn't quite believe it, that's exactly what I did, while he bent over laughing so hard he could hardly speak (I was laughing pretty hard myself as I extracted the torn mess from the sleeves of my shirt!).
Yep, these songs take me right back to that kind of night and those kind of innocent adventures, the fun and wildness that was anything but wild. Really. When I was riding around in those cars, listening to James Taylor, Carole King and the like, we were kids looking for ways to know God, to love Him.
Saturday, when I saw the tall Texan who led my Young Life club in high school, I introduced his wife and him to our kids and our friends. And I said to him, "I was just your average Young Life kid." He looked at me with his sweet, old eyes and said in his inimitable Texan drawl, "You were never average. You loved Jesus too much." That touched me. Not in the way you might think, though.
I used to think it was like I'd been born under a different sun or something. I don't really know exactly how else to explain it. But always, always since I first met Jesus on that pine-cone strewn path at Camp Easter Seal, I've felt it. KNEW it to the marrow of my bones. His name is Jesus. No, that's not quite it. It's more like Jesus was who I'd been looking for in the long days of before. Like He'd always been there and I finally looked up. Yes, that's it. I finally looked up and He came in. And lit me up. Completely, utterly lit me up. For good. That's what Sam saw, I think, what he confirmed the other day. There was a difference in that scrawny narrow-faced, lank-haired girl and most other high school girls he knew, and that difference is Jesus. Then and since. Jesus.
And you know what else? When He came in, His goal was not just my life. I've told the story many times of coming home from Camp Easter Seal after becoming a Christian and telling Mom she was going to hell. She was NOT amused. Mom was a fine Methodist back then, but didn't know Jesus. Dad wasn't even much of a Methodist. But Mom's service Saturday morning was solidly, beautifully Christ-centered service, because by the end of her life, Mom loved Christ. That's what Jesus has done in our lives. Starting that day on that pine-cone strewn path, He began His journey into our family.
There are still miles to go, hearts to be won. But He's in it for the long-run. And I'm with Him.