Somewhere in about 2005, I got to attend a leadership conference called Origins at Mosaic. I remember sitting up in the balcony of the Mayan Theater downtown L.A., a million miles from anyone I knew, hoping the crowded solitude would help me find whatever I needed from God in that moment. I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but I knew I needed something or I was done. Exhausted from banging my head against the same walls over and over, I think what I was hoping for was permission to quit… to take my young family and walk away from the life we’d built to start another. (That’s not what I got, by the way.)
As I waited for the first session to start, I noticed a familiar face, milling through the crowd a few rows away. It was only familiar from the back covers of a couple of my favorite books, An Unstoppable Force and The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus, pastor of Mosaic. Actually, I think the title he used was Cultural Architect and I loved it! We shook hands and when I said I was a youth pastor, he introduced his young daughter, Mariah. I had no idea what their relationship was truly like or what she would make of the life God had given her, but it was great to see a pastor of an incredibly innovative church, leading a conference and writing and talking about the art of ministry and leadership in ways that others didn’t (in ways that resonated deep within me and continue to shape how I work and lead) with his daughter by his side. I noted that whatever else he was pouring into us, he seemed even more intent on developing the leader in Mariah. It was only a moment (one I’m sure neither of them remembers); a glimpse that revealed very little about the actual dynamics of how that would happen, but it was a moment that left a mark.
My own daughter was only a few years old (maybe 5), back at home with my wife and with wide open possibilities ahead of her, but I remember praying that day that whatever else happened in my life and ministry, God would help me develop a relationship with my little girl that would see us sharing hope and life and light together. I hoped that someday, she could look at me with the pride and admiration and hope that I saw in Mariah’s glance at her dad. Later, when he had her come up on stage and sing, I was again struck by the poise and confidence she showed (not to mention an incredible voice). I hoped I would raise such a confident girl.
Today, my “little girl” is about ready to graduate high school, enrolled to start a worship arts program in a few months, and skipping school today to attend the Outcry, a worship conference where one of the featured leaders is none other than Mariah McManus. I am beyond proud of who Emily is and who she is becoming. Last night, as she led our student ministry in a moment of musical prayer, she’d chosen a song co-written by Mariah McManus and it struck me how God has been moving to answer my father-hearted prayers for my kids. And even more so, how He is orchestrating great things for His kids, inviting us to run in faith into a symphonic display of His love that will bring great hope and light to the world. It’s amazing what He does with our faithful response to His heart!
The song has quickly become one of Emily’s favorites. It speaks to the song that we are all made for; the song of Jesus’ greatness and strength and love. The darkness and fear that keep us from singing His song are no match for Him! God is moving. Whether you’re in small town Nebraska or the heart of Los Angeles, He is weaving tapestries out of our lives in ways we can barely comprehend. We are made to proclaim Him, and I can’t wait to see how she will lead others to do that with all of her life.
Whatever you think you need from God right now, take heart. Jesus is greater than whatever you’re facing. You may be facing it for the sole purpose of learning to live in that reality. Let Him breathe in you and show the life that only He can give. The world needs to see it.