During seminary, around 1990, I served a Louisville, Ky., church as associate minister of music.
In addition, I had some children’s ministry responsibilities that included assisting our on-the-ball children’s Sunday school department director with her annual two-day educational/fun trip for older children.
One summer, the director’s itinerary included a tour of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. Our group of 30 or so gathered with about 70 other tourists for the historic tour of this national landmark.
As everyone began the descent down the long stairway into the massive rotunda, I covered the rear flank, rounding up any stray children from our group.
A friendly assistant park ranger fell in step with me as we followed everyone down the narrow staircase. He began asking questions about our group, and at some point I mentioned that I was a seminary music student.
He immediately said, “Oh! Would you like to sing in the cave?”
Oddly embarrassed, I quickly blurted “No!” and we moved on to other conversation.
The senior ranger had already begun his narrative as we reached the bottom of the stairs. I quietly found my group and edged into the crowd, forgetting all about the assistant ranger.
This was my first tour of the cave as an adult so I became really engrossed in its history as an ammunitions warehouse and later as a tuberculosis hospital.
The senior ranger soon began telling a wonderful story about the gigantic “Methodist Church” boulder prominently featured in the rotunda.
Long ago, a congregation used to gather in the cave for Sunday worship services, and the preacher would stand atop the boulder to deliver his sermons. No microphone was needed, for sure.
As the senior ranger wrapped up his presentation, I noticed that the assistant ranger had circled down to the front. He leaned over to interrupt his boss, whispering something in his ear. A moment later, the senior ranger announced, “I understand someone wants to sing.”
At first, I looked around to see who it was, but after what seemed a long silence, one of the children poked me in the side, and I suddenly realized he was talking about me.
Within a split second, my thoughts moved from “How embarrassing!” to “I’m going to get that assistant ranger!” to “Oh, my, what song would be appropriate?”
An instant later, I thought of a hymn I had memorized as a child. I quickly reviewed the lyrics in my head. Then, as the crowd stood silently, I inhaled deeply and began to sing a cappella:
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”
My self-consciousness quickly evaporated as I relished the experience of singing inside that wonderfully acoustical, historic landmark. I’m sure the notes are still resonating somewhere deep within the cave.
Afterward, as we continued on the tour, I thought to myself, “You just never know when you’re going to have an opportunity to do something special for God!”
We all prepare ourselves for God’s service every time we fill ourselves with “spiritual things.”
Learning songs of the faith. Memorizing Scripture. Praying. Reading books and articles about discipleship and Christianity. Discussing matters of faith with friends and family.
Observing master teachers and engaging ministry mentors. Taking seminary classes. Studying to teach Sunday school or Vacation Bible School. Practicing conducting or sermon delivery. And the list goes on and on.
Then suddenly, God puts a new opportunity right in front of us, and we discover we’re ready.
Unknowingly, we’ve been preparing for this “God moment” all along. We are amazed at how the Spirit has been at work in our lives.
All that remains now is for us to step forward boldly with a resounding “Yes!”
Naomi K. Walker is music/worship pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. A version of this column first appeared on her blog, Worship, Music and Beyond, and is used with permission. You can follow her on Twitter @NaomiKingWalker.