I woke up one day with this song in my head I hadn’t heard since childhood. A song they used to sing sometimes in my church when we went up to receive Communion. But I’d stopped going to that church ten years ago. I couldn’t believe I still remembered it.
Do not be afraid; I am with you / I have called you each by name / Come and follow me, I will bring you home / I love you and you are mine
I had just moved to the city from my small-town college, still slept on my friends’ living room floor. After months of applying for jobs, I’d landed one at a cookie factory, what I called “my I Love Lucy job.” Workdays, I woke up at three in the morning, ate plain oatmeal, and went to wait for the train in the dark. When I left work, it was dark again.
The day I woke up with the song in my head, though, was Saturday, a day off. On Saturdays, I woke up and tried to meditate, perhaps trying to convince myself there was something romantically monastic about my spartan lifestyle.
I opened the book of devotions I was using to a random page, and the same words jumped out at me, the beginning of Isaiah 43:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I blinked. How weird, I thought. Well, maybe I had seen this page on another day and that was what got the song into my head. I did my usual sad attempt at meditating and went about my day.
The next day, Sunday, I decided to try out a church. I’d never really stuck with one in college, preferring to make brunch for friends on Sunday morning. But now, in this new place, I’d decided it would be good for me to have a church of my own. It would help me meet people. I’d heard about this church before, seen its beautiful picture online, heard great things about its welcoming atmosphere.
It happened to be a Catholic church, like the one I’d grown up in.
When I came out as a Christian to my father in my late teens, the first thing he asked me was, “Does that mean you’ll do everything the Pope says now?”
“No, Dad,” I said, with a great show of patience. “That’s Catholics. I’m not specifically Catholic anymore, I’m just a Christian.”
During my college years, I’d never felt a draw back to my childhood church. The churches I shopped were Episcopalian, United Church of Christ, nondenominational. I’d attended maybe one Catholic Mass since my conversion, and I felt completely unmoved by it.
The one thing I’d really missed about Mass was Communion. Some of the churches I’d attended only shared the bread and wine occasionally, and that never felt quite right to me. So as the Mass went on, I started to get excited about receiving Communion again. After all these years of getting it sporadically at best, I guess I was hungry.
Finally the moment approached. People started to sing the Communion song.
I started to laugh. Then I started to cry, covered my face and sobbed right there in my wooden pew.
It was the song that had been in my head for the last two days: “You Are Mine,” by David Haas.
As I went up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, I was crying so hard I couldn’t even think of singing. On my way back to my seat, a stranger swept me into her arms and gave me a huge hug.
Things like this don’t happen to me. You should know that. I am not a magnet for miracles, or even remarkable coincidences. But after all my wandering and all my doubting, that day I got a sign I couldn’t ignore. Don’t be afraid, it said. Come on. This way is home.