One summer day almost two years ago, I was sitting at my desk as I completed an afternoon of work at my volunteer internship. The phone had been ringing nonstop, so I was a bit frazzled. During a lull in calls, I got out my Tablet and logged onto the wireless network. I found K-LOVE Radio and decided to listen in. It was then that the DJ announced a new song by Natalie Grant.
As the song began, I began to rearrange my desk, putting away excess pens and paper and generally just tidying up. But suddenly, I was gripped with the opening lyric, and I froze. There was something about the way Natalie sang: “Who but You/ Could breathe and leave a trail of galaxies/ And dream of me…” I was instantly captivated as I got lost in the melody and story within the song, for I quickly realized that this song called “Alive” was from the point-of-view of Mary Magdalene.
Many of you might be aware that Mary Magdalene was among some of the women present at the tomb when they realized Jesus had risen from the dead. “Alive” speaks of her awe and wonder at the fact that her Savior had risen and had done everything He had promised. As I listened to the song for the first time that afternoon, I couldn’t help but give in to tears. Music often touches me in a deep way, but there was something about “Alive” that gripped me to the core. As the song built to the chorus, chills came over me: “Alive, alive/ Look what mercy’s overcome/ Death has lost and love has won/ Alive, alive/ Hallelujah risen Lord/ The only One I fall before/ I am His because He is alive.”
As the song drew to a close, I signed onto Facebook as fast as my fingers could type and posted the Youtube link so my friends could hear the song too. I can’t remember what I said to describe what I had just heard, but I think I typed something like: “Just heard this amazing song… Wow, chills!”
It wasn’t long before some of my friends started to comment as well, and it seemed many were just as affected as I had been. I knew that some day I had to find a way to incorporate this incredible anthem into Easter worship at church.
Well, this year, I had that opportunity! I can remember the day when I found out “Alive” was part of the “Music Inspired by the Story.” Many of you might be aware that my church family and I are going through The Story, which is a chronological way to read the Bible. The music that came along with the curriculum is some of the best work I’ve heard in terms of giving life to the Scriptures. To know that “Alive” was a part of that set of music was incredible.
Easter, at least on the calendar, passed in late March, and on that day, our church celebrated the birth of Jesus in addition to looking at the entire scope of His ministry and purpose. So it was like Christmas on Easter, which was pretty amazing since I love both events on the church calendar. I knew our Easter celebration would come in May, and I was ready to share all kinds of new music, including “Alive.”
As I immersed myself in rehearsal, I quickly found that the song was far from easy to sing. The highs and lows of the melody soar above a comfortable range, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But I pushed forward.
When the day arrived, I was shaking with nerves. To top it off, I wasn’t feeling well either, and I was almost certain there was no way I could sing under the circumstances. But as I stood on the platform and sang the story of Mary Magdalene, I found myself in her shoes. I imaged her awe and wonder at seeing her Savior alive, and I considered how joyful yet terrified she must have been.
As Pastor Tim launched into His sermon, he kept my thoughts focused in this direction. He asked the congregation to consider what event in Jesus’ life they would most like to witness: the birth of Jesus, crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension. Although I would have liked to witness all of these elements, I had to admit I would have most liked to be there at the resurrection. True, I probably would have reacted in terror at seeing something so miraculous, but I think the sheer joy and wonder of that first Easter morning would have been incredible beyond words.
Pastor Tim asked the congregation if we truly believed that Jesus was alive that first day. “Yes,” many people responded out loud. “How do you know this is true?” Pastor Tim asked. “Because the Bible tells us so,” someone responded. “Our faith tells us it’s true.”
“Do you believe He’s alive here today” Pastor Tim asked. “Yes,” came the answer again. “How do you know this is true?” Pastor Tim questioned once more. The consensus seemed to be that we see Him at work today— that we talk about Him and His story in our lives.
I thought of recent encounters in my life where I knew without a doubt that Jesus was near and a part of my everyday life. There was the day that I stepped out in faith and paid for a copy of The Story for someone who couldn’t afford it. I really didn’t have the extra money myself, but I bought the book anyway. Hours later, an acquaintance paid me back for the money she had owed me for a long time. Then there was the day that God reminded me of His abounding love for me even as I sought to show love to someone who had been less than responsive. And then there was the moment in church when I sang “Alive.”
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t been feeling well that day. I was able to sing and my voice was strong, but I was experiencing some pain. As I began to sing, putting myself in the place of Mary Magdalene, I thought of the pain that Christ endured on my behalf on the cross. To know that He conquered death and rose again gave me such great hope and a new perspective. As I sang and gave the song my all, I felt my pain slowly dissipate until the final chorus started to build. The pain was gone and I was physically free from this brief moment of earthly suffering. What mattered most was my testimony to the risen Christ. To date, this is one moment in time where I will remember His faithfulness in the midst of my frailty.