On Sunday Melanie went to church. On Monday Melanie contemplated the events of Sunday. On Tuesday Melanie discussed it all with Douglas, her husband. But he was his usual noncommittal self. On Wednesday Melanie confided in Sarah and Jolene over coffee and cheesecake at the Mugg-and-Bean—but all to no avail. On Thursday she phoned her mother, 1000km away, who merely told her to stop her nonsense. On Friday morning she rang Scott’s doorbell.

Scott hadn’t seen or spoken to Melanie in months. But there she was on his doorstep, unannounced, under stress and unable to help herself. Before Scott could properly invite her in, she plunked herself down on the couch in the living room. Scott tried to get through the customary cordialities of, “How’re you? How’s Douglas?” But Melanie simply unburdened herself, opened the flood gates, and poured her heart out…

“I’ve been attending church since I was a little girl. Every Sunday I went to Sunday school and after that I sat between my mom and dad during the main service. The years went by and Sunday school turned into confirmation classes. Mom made me a beautiful light mauve chiffon dress for the confirmation. And I started to use Holy Communion. I met Douglas; we got engaged and went to see the minister. We had a lovely church wedding; and later both our children were christened in the same church. Everything was so regular and so normal—all according to the way things have always been done.

“Then one morning during Bible study we discussed the ‘born-again’ issue. The one girl said that she would get hold of some more information. At the next meeting she brought a guest along who explained salvation to us in a way none of us had ever heard from the pulpit. It was as if blinkers fell off our eyes and we were all born-again that morning—receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We returned to our church, but our message of joy wasn’t well received. Gradually, we all left and joined other churches. Douglas didn’t protest too much, and just tagged along. Everything had been going well, till this past Sunday…”

“Well, what happened?” Scott asked, quietly hoping that he wasn’t getting himself into something rather problematic.

“Everything was the same as usual—nothing out of the ordinary,” Melanie continued. “We had a precious time of praise and worship. Then the pastor started preaching and I listened, following in my Bible. The pastor proceeded to Psalm 107:8-9 ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.’ And right there I stopped listening… I stopped following the sermon… It was as if the text had been highlighted, and it stood out very prominently. I stared and stared and stared…

“I was thirsty! I was hungry! I wanted the good things of the Lord! I wanted more of God! No, let me rephrase that: I AM thirsty, I AM hungry, I WANT the good things of God, and I WANT more of God. And that’s been driving me crazy all week!”

Scott got up to make them some tea, hoping that it would give him some time to formulate an answer to Melanie’s malady. “After all,” he thought to himself, “what do I know anyway?” He placed the tray with the cups and some biscuits on the coffee table, poured the tea and attempted an answer.

“You know, I have a very simple faith. I strive to focus on Jesus. I firmly adhere to the Scripture in 1 Timothy 2:5 that says ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ So I’ve been trying through all these past years, to improve my relationship with Jesus, and practice a faith devoid of rituals and religion. I’ve found that my thirst can only be quenched, and my hunger only be satisfied, in fellowship with Jesus. That’s the only way I’ve been able to get more of God.”

Melanie looked at Scott intently, and with tears starting to form in her eyes, asked, “Are you implying that I’m not praying enough to God? Are you saying that I don’t have a proper prayer life?”

“No, no, no,” he quickly interjected, “that’s not at all what I meant.” He gave her a moment to regain her composure and continued, “Fellowship with Jesus is more than prayer—its ‘prayer plus.’”

“Prayer-plus? What do you mean?” Melanie had a puzzled look on her face.

Scott got up and went to the CD-player. He searched his CD collection and found what he was looking for. Melanie asked whether he was going to play some praise and worship music. Scott looked at her and handed her the CD case—a remake of a Mario Lanza golden oldie. Melanie looked at him with raised eyebrows. He knew that she was busy questioning his spirituality and wondering whether he had backslidden. Scott asked her to listen carefully to the words. He suggested that there might be a secret hidden in the lyrics. The song started… Mario Lanza’s outstanding voice filled the lounge…

I’ll walk with God, from this day on
His helping hand, I’ll lean upon
This is my prayer, my humble plea
May the Lord be ever with me

There is no death though eyes grow dim
There is no fear when I’m near to Him
I’ll lean on Him forever
And He’ll forsake me never

He will not fail me
As long as my faith is strong
What ever road I may walk alone

I’ll walk with God, I’ll take his hand
I’ll talk with God, He’ll understand
I’ll pray to Him, each day to him
And he’ll hear the words that I say

His hand will guide my throne and rod
And I’ll never walk alone
While I walk with God

When the melody had finished, Scott turned off the CD-player. Melanie read and reread the words on the CD-case insert. She lifted her head, looked him straight in the eyes and said, “I think I’m getting what you’re trying to tell me. Fellowship with God is a daily walk with God. Is that right?”

Scott smiled at Melanie. She sure had got it! “Fellowship with Jesus is an intimate walk with Jesus—24/7,” he responded. “As you allow Him to come closer to you, you’ll experience more of Him. It is no different to your relationship with Douglas. The more you let Douglas into your life, the better you get to know him. You see, fellowship with Jesus is not a religious ritual, it’s very practical and it’s very real.”

Melanie started to understand what Scott had meant with prayer-plus. Even though she had been born-again, she was still adhering to some rituals and religious concepts. If she really wanted more of God, she had to have a one-to-one relationship with Jesus. And such a relationship could only come by talking to Him, listening to Him, spending time with Him—all the time… Whilst, working, playing, showering, eating, anything, everything—24/7.

Like the clear sound of a bell, she realized that ‘relationship’ outweighed ‘religion.’ As if the lights were suddenly turned on, she began to see the difference between ‘Christianity’ and ‘churchianity.’ In a twinkling of an eye, she chose ‘intimacy’ above ‘institution,’ and ‘Truth’ above ‘tradition.’

They spent some time in prayer and God touched Melanie’s thirsty and hungry soul. He filled her with His love and joy. He gave her a new song in her heart. God changed MELANIE’S MALADY into MELANIE’S MELODY! I’ll walk with God… from this day on…

That was Friday. On Saturday, Melanie was jubilant. On Sunday, Douglas was jubilant. On Wednesday, Sarah and Jolene were jubilant.

You know what? You too can be jubilant! Today, God can change your malady into a melody!


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© Emil Kirstein

(‘I’ll walk with God’ lyrics © by Paul Francis Webster)