Can We Sing Sanctuary?

“Can we sing Sanctuary?”

This, my friends, is the church camp worship planner nightmare question. It creeps up out of nowhere. Just when you think the scripture leads to singing certain themed songs, a voice pops up asking that question as if it has never been asked before.

You may not know the song named “Sanctuary”. It is a simple tune with these lyrics, “Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary. Pure and Holy. Tried and True. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.” Once you learn it, it is in your head for days. You’ll be walking along humming it. The song is chant like, can be sung in a round, and always lingers in air after it is sung. (Click here to listen to the song.)

The middle school and high school youth I’ve worked with at church camp in the summers declare each year this is their favorite song. The worship-nerd inside me wants to push back and invite them to sing new songs or old hymns, anything but Sanctuary. As a teen, I’d be that voice popping up to ask to sing it. (What goes around comes around, huh?)

Today, the tune edged itself into the forefront of my mind. My thoughts jumped here: “Ugh! Again! I need sanctuary from that song! I don’t want to be a sanctuary. I want God to be a sanctuary for me!”

After living with those thoughts for a while, I realized how easy it is to want things from God that we aren’t willing to give to God. On this hectic day, I wanted God to give me rest, peace, sanctuary. I was unwilling to share with God the little peace and rest I have, opening up to see how God could use it.

Seeking God can be confusing. Prayer and worship often focus on sharing with God our thoughts without asking what God’s thoughts are for us. Sometimes, we resist God; sometimes, we beg for connection. Each per-son who follows Jesus is invited to turn over to God all that we are. Often, we only turn over to God the difficult parts of life, looking for problems to go away. God isn’t plucking us up like flowers in a garden. God is strengthening our roots. God will prepare us to deal with life. We must open up to let God do that work.

Perhaps the youthful love of that song is there because they’ve had less time to be convinced of self-reliance. Each one of us can accomplish much alone. God is always with us. We can be more (which is not the same as accomplishing anything) when we open up to God. Our capacity to see God’s companionship comes when prayer for what we desire and for what God desires in us happen mutually. Then, we shall find sanctuary in God and that we are a sanctuary for God and others in the world.

One response

  1. Kelli this is so funny! I remember every year at church camp how much I absolutely loved singing this song and we even came up with our own variations of how we would harmonize it. Honestly, to this day it is still one of my favorite worship songs, although I can completely understand you needing something new!!! GREAT post!

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