"Summer", Frank Weston Benson

I can’t believe that it was fifteen years ago. How could anything be fifteen years ago?

It was April. One of our number was turning 21 and we had spirited her away to one of the most enchanted places on earth to celebrate: the coastal isles of Georgia. Twelve girls in one hotel room (don’t even try to imagine where we all slept: I have the distinct recollection that there was very little sleep to be had) and a mass chaos of feminine frenzy any time we wanted to go anywhere (in which we were divided between a fifteen passenger van and Nikki’s mother’s ginormous station wagon). A weekend at the beach for $40, complete with groceries, gas and meals–and one of the shining moments of my girlhood. (It was also the occasion of one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire life, involving the aforementioned station wagon and the golf course of the Sea Island Club–yeah, that Sea Island–but I’ll save that one for another day. Or not.)

One evening after dinner (the birthday meal at the late, lamented Blanche’s Courtyard) we went for a walk along the shore, abandoning our shoes at the boardwalk and flitting down towards the water in the fading light like so many moths, unbounded by the trappings of earth. We laughed and splashed in the tide, soaking the hems of our flapping skirts and, doubtless, one another. And then, as the darkness dropped down and enfolded us in an uncanny quiet we all became more serious. Quieter, in keeping with the great stillness that enfolded all the world and the deserted beach which was our corner of it.

Sarah taught us a song, a haunting round her mother had learned in France, that just seemed to speak the yearning of our young and uncomplicated souls in its simple adoration of the Savior:

Jesus my Lord, my Rock and my Shield, You gave up Your life that we might live.
You gave up Your life that we might live.
Gracious Savior, Gracious Savior, Gracious Savior, Jesus Christ.

We sang it, again and again, loving the words and the sounds of our own voices blended together in worship along with the winds and the cresting tide. And then we were silent, hardly able to make out one anothers’ faces in the moonless gloom. Hardly daring to breathe for the beauty of the moment.

A sound of clapping startled us out of the spell: slow and satisfied, first one and then another. Squinting in the darkness we made our way over to a driftwood log where, unbeknownst to us, a couple had been sitting for some time, watching the evening fall and listening to our singing. It turned out to be friends who lived on the Island (glorious Kingdom coincidence!) and they were so delighted with our visit and with our music that they asked us on the spot to come to their church the next morning and sing for their youth group.

Which we did. And which I still find absolutely hilarious to this day. But, oh so touching to remember on this April afternoon when life has scattered us literally all over the world.

A few years back my husband recorded some of us singing it, and I offer it here in token of friendship. And in praise of the gracious Savior that makes it eternal.

Jesus My Lord