It was one the most influential conversations in my life. Back in 1972, The Sound of Singing Youth, our church music group ( yes, I really was young once) was doing a concert in Montreat N.C. with some of the staff of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team. It was to be my last time with the group before going off to college to prepare for ministry. I was working as a stage hand that night. I remember feeling a lot of confusion about my life at that time with all the changes leaving home not knowing what the next phase of my life would be like.Ethel Waters , former Broadway musical star and movie actress, was there to sing that night. She sang many times at the Billy Graham Crusades around the world. Her most popular song she would sing at those events would be “His Eye is On the Sparrow” which describes how much God really cares for us if God cares for even the sparrow as Jesus said ” The very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”- Luke 12:2 (NLT)
She ended up standing by me back stage. She looked at me and asked “Is something bothering you?” I shared about my doubts about my future. She share that “Doubt and Discouragement are two of the biggest weapons that the devil uses to keep us from being what God wants us to be in life.” She also told me she read Psalm 40 everyday to remember that God is with us no matter what challenges we are faced with in life…”I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”- Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)
That simple conversation continued to impact my life. When Ethel passed away my mom, who was a great fan of Ethel, asked me to plant a magnolia tree at our home .That tree eventually grew taller than the house. One night during a thunderstorm, lightning struck the tree and split it apart. To our amazement, the tree survived. Every time I drove in that drive way I would see that tree and be reminded of that conversation with Ethel Waters. Now years later, although I live in another house, when I pull into my driveway I see a magnolia tree some friends gave me. Often times I see it after a tough day of visiting people who sick in the hospitals, or trying to help people through a tragedy or crisis, or trying to help people who are hurting in some other way…I’m reminded of what God taught through that conversation. Now as I did then, I give my doubts and discouragement to God because His Eye is on the Sparrow and I know He watches over You and Me. God loves and cares for you and me, not just because of the magnolia tree but because of what Jesus did for you and me on the cross on Calvary. His love for you and me is greater than any doubt or discouragement we may face or encounter along life’s way.