If you have ever been to a Baptist church, you know the power of the altar call. In my home church, growing up, it came right after the sermon. My childhood preacher, Dr. Winfred M. Hope, was a master of the altar call. After giving the foundation with an examination of the scripture, he would transition into more personal anecdotes and relatable examples of the lesson.
He would begin the big push — the last five minutes of his sermon. The organist would join in and underline his points with staccato chords that popped out of the speakers. The passion of the moment would build and build until it crested in a wave of emotion and music.
Then there would be a flourish from the organ and what was once all thunder and flash would ripple into the soft notes of the altar song we used, I Surrender All. It is inherently soothing and welcoming. As the almost moaning tones of the song began to grow from the organ, Dr. Hope would say words of invitation that still come to me often: “If there is one, if there are those….”. It was his way of throwing the doors open and giving anyone and everyone permission to release all their burdens, problems, shame and woes into the arms of a higher power that they can love, trust and depend on for comfort and safety.
I’ve watched many people answer the altar call. I myself have made that walk down the aisle a time or two. There is a peace that comes from making that walk, but there is also anxiety. Whatever the reason for making that walk, for answering the call, it is a significant moment. It is a statement you are making, to others but more importantly to yourself, that you want your life to go in a different direction. It is a life changing moment.
It is a moment that I have seen many other places outside of church. I have seen people come to a decision to take a leap of faith or release negative baggage or cut ties with toxic people or leave dangerous situations. I’ve seen people have the moment where they realize something has changed and they want to be a part of it. I’ve seen people have the moment where they realize something in them has changed and they want to act on it. I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it.
Oftentimes the catalyst for this moment is external. It is a reaction. Even if the origin is out of our control, however, where the story goes from there is on us. The gift of our free will means we get to decide what our reaction will be. We get to decide the trajectory we take. All based on a moment.
We are often led to believe that life-changing moments are big; that they are life or death serious and sudden and jarring and obvious. But the truth is, they are common and happen every day. Every day we face situations and make decisions that either solidify the path we are following or make us question where we are going.
I’ve seen the emotions displayed when people have made the walk to the altar. They run the gamut. One similarity is the sense of resolve and relief. They are people who have been standing at a crossroads, some longer than others. Perhaps there have been other times before when they have wanted to make that walk but something held them back. Maybe the impetus to stand happened in a flash of clarity. Whatever it was, once they began walking down the aisle you could see there was a level of peace that came with the decision.
That is a feeling shared outside the walls of a church or temple also. It is the same feeling when we find ourselves in a moment in our lives where everything can change. When we have made a decision on how to proceed and have set off on a course of action. It is a moment where we accept the responsibility to rise to the occasion.
Can you hear that? The music is rising. We live in transformative times. If there is one, if there are those, who recognize that, then now is the time to let go of whatever has been holding you back, release the fear and answer the call in your heart. So many times, in the story of man, seemingly ordinary people have stepped in to fill an extraordinary need. So many times, we have seen people recognize the moment and step up to meet it. We need that again. We need people, from the grassroots to the loftiest halls of power, to surrender all ego and answer the call to lead. If there is one, if there are those, come. The doors of opportunity are open.
— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.