Because He Lives

There are a few moments with surprising longevity in my mind. Some are there, hard and fast, and I know why. The first time I fired a rifle and the smell of gunpowder surrounded my face… The moment I felt the Pacific Ocean for the first time surround my ankles and then plunge through my nostrils… The feeling of driving by myself for the first time without my parents silently screaming to themselves in the seat next to me… (ok, i know they were silently screaming and praying to God that I arrive safely now, but at the time I figured they went back to whatever boring tasks an adult has when their horribly exciting teenager is not around)

But then there are other moments that are beautiful moments I would never have seen coming. I said “yes” to them and then watched them unfold in glory.

I can hear the guitar picking carefully and skillfully through the G Chord. I can remember being crammed into a corner, myself with an acoustic that sat silently, Lori and Jess with microphone near their faces, and Angel, playing into the intro. While he played, three girls dressed in flowing white dresses crossed into the stage and began to dance. While they twirled through their choreography, Angel began to sing,

God sent His son. They called him Jesus. [1]

Angel’s voice was so perfectly suited to that song, it was like the Gaithers actually wrote it just for him to sing it 45 years after its original writing. He captured the longing of the music to tell the reassuring story of Jesus Christ living, breathing, dying, and defeating death to deliver to us a certain knowledge of life. He came to give us an abundance of that experience which He first spun into motion millennia preceding.

I can feel the strings of my guitar under finger during the next verse. I can hear Lori beginning her harmony and I remember her looking anywhere except at her little girl, one of the three dancing. I can see Jess trying to give Lori solidarity, also not looking at the girls. Their friendship, so close a bonding, that those girls were like her own; cherished children whose growth she closely guarded and sent prayer to heaven. Their voices betrayed their emotions and the training to compensate for the emotions. As we entered into the chorus the second time, it was a riot of love and pride and peace.

It was Easter. And we acknowledged

Life is worth the living, just because He lives. [2]

Last fall, as I looked at the books for the coming project of Worship Studies, one of the classes had four optional books. Three of them were by Dr. Robert Morgan. All three bore the title Then Sings My Soul. I read their descriptions and they were stories about the worship music of the past and how they came about. Thanks to the VA footing the bill for books, I was more than happy to order all of them. Each week, the class featured a video lecture by Dr. Morgan from the research he conducted about great hymns, their authors, composers, and, when possible, stories about their use. These are some of my most treasured books.

Hymns are hard to love when your brain is emotionally wired toward contemporary music. They generally flow quite pleasantly through a progress which does not make the impact of the words you sing stand out in any significant way. You have to actually force your perspective on what you are singing and appreciate the poetry and theological richness while also bouncing along to the hymn styling of the old ways.

While working on book number two, Dr. Morgan received a story from Gloria Gaither about the song, “Because He Lives.” She is also the one to have penned the foreword of the book.

The song was written during a time of extraordinary emotional duress. Bill had mono, along with all of the complications for the drain on energy and joy that brings. Gloria was pregnant, but hesitant because the sting of the previous pregnancy was not yet dissipated. The year was 1969. America was, as it is now, going collectively crazy trying to define itself socially through progressive and regressive politics and trying to emotionally understand war. Man walked on the moon and men walked across each others’ dignity. The problems of race ignorance and racism were much more real than social media bullying. Hard water cannons tore skin from the body. People died for being in the wrong county.

That’s a scary place to bring a baby into the world.

Gloria writes,

This combination of national turmoil and personal trouble discouraged us, and we occasionally asked each other, ‘If the world is like this now, what will it be in fifteen or sixteen years for our baby? What will this child face? [3]

My life is a little bit of chaos currently. A little bit of a lot of it. While I certainly don’t have to deal with the extraordinary chaos of life in the third world where everything can be tranquil one moment and then a riot of revolution and lack of resources the next, and I don’t worship God in a country where such an act could lose me my family, income, or life, I still wake with small fears that can grow into large ones if fertilized by uncertainty and watered with time. What do I do for a new job? Will my resume be good enough? Do I call the people that receive my resume or are they sick of hearing from me? What about school for my kids? Are they really ready for school? What about the other kids? What about the things I’m not thinking about?

And like… what happens if the super volcano blows up?

This morning, I was reading through the thoughts of Dr. Morgan. I highly recommend you get one of these books. There are three of them. Each has a specific flavor. It is a good time to spend with Biblical truth. It connects with beautiful music. It humanizes the people who wrote these gems. You really get the sense that these songs were written because people really believed. And that is what I connected with this morning. As I read, I found my problems superimposed on the problems of life in the 60’s and then laid along side the problems of every man who has ever walked the path of life and discovered the soil required sweat equity to bear forth fruit.

The Gaithers held their newborn baby and realized that it was because of the reality of Christ that the chaos surrounding such a little life held no permanent sway.

While pondering and praying about these things, we came to realize anew that our courage doesn’t come from a stable world, for the world has never been stable. Jesus Himself was born in the cruelest of times. No, we have babies, raise families, and risk living because the Resurrection is true! [4]

That Easter morning hangs permanently etched my memory as a memory stone drawn from the rivers run dry that He has led us across. Early morning fears dissipate into insubstantial fog. The sun rises through the wooded field behind my house bathing us in gold. I hold my children in my arms and hope instead of fear, because He lives.

Enjoy Angel singing… Recording credit goes to Italia Grosso.

1. Gloria Gaither and William J. Gaither, “Because He Lives,” Hannah Street Music, 1971.

2. Ibid.

3. Gloria Gaither, letter to Robert J. Morgan, quoted in Robert J. Morgan, Then Sings My Soul, Book 2, (Nashville, TN: W. Publishing, 2004) 299

4. Ibid.

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