sharper focus_Give me Jesus

By Victor Leslie, Lt. Colonel

I am sitting in the funeral service. I hear a soulful choir sing with sympathetic feeling: “In the morning, when I rise, in the morning, when I rise, in the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.”

The sopranos, poised and graceful, vocalizing each note; the altos, the most animated, resonate with soul penetrating harmonies; operatic tenors unconsciously lifting their heads with each succession of musical tones and gray-haired basses, rooted with harmonic certainty, all blending to create a heartrending and passionate statement of confidence and faith. I am intrigued and helplessly moved to tears as they sing the modern version of an old African-American spiritual hymn. The lyrics are obviously simple, but their spiritual impact is piercing and powerful: “Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You can have all this world, give me Jesus….”

As the words drop from their lips, I contemplate the message. In the morning when I rise, when I first open my eyes, give me Jesus, the water of life who invigorates my soul. In the morning when I lay bare my aspirations to a new day, give me the sweet fragrance and freshness of his unfailing love; give me Jesus: my reason for living, my source of survival and hope of renewal. In the morning when I rise, I choose not to eat of the bread of idleness or the bitterness of worldly cares; give me Jesus to strengthen my resolve to live a more prayerful, watchful and spirit-filled life. And, my heart reverberates with a gratifying prayer to my Lord and Savior Jesus, Let me rise in the morning and live always with you! (Ps. 139:18 MSG).

The choir continues to solemnly define a resolute trust in Jesus even in the depths of life’s journey. “Oh when I am alone, give me Jesus!” Time and again we experience being alone in this self-sufficient world. Sometimes it is by choice, when in solitude we seek a quiet place to step out of the daily grind and to connect with God, to ponder his grace, and replenish our faith. Clearly the choice then is “give me Jesus.” But there are other times, times when life’s seasons leave us without a sense of connectedness, when everyone seems distant or detached, when there is no feeling of belonging. In these moments when we do not seem to know where to turn or what to do, it is then that the hunger of desire for Jesus must be deep and strong, insatiable. Psalm 139 provides impetus and assurance: “I can never get away from his presence; I can never escape from his Spirit. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there his hand will guide me and his strength will support me.” There is no other argument; there is no other plea—just give me Jesus!

Soon the choir sits reverently to avoid disturbing the liturgy. I am overcome by the wistful cry ingrained in my mind: “You can have all this world; give me Jesus.” I think of the origins of this anthem. It was first inscribed in the hearts of a people stripped of all human dignity. The life-changing message of who Jesus is and what he brings to a broken life must have resonated in their souls. I hear their voices speak through generation after generation, “Give me Jesus!” Whether I am broken or blessed, whether I experience tragedy or triumph, whether life is full of sunshine or shadow, “Give me Jesus,” from the day of my birth to the day of my jubilee.

I breathe an affirming prayer. “And when I come to die,” give me Jesus, the soul-liberating, all-satisfying, resurrection-bringing Jesus. Jesus whispers in my heart: “All who seek me will find me” (Jer. 29:13).

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