Gloria Gaither enlightens HLG boosters
HANNIBAL – When Gloria Gaither wonders what God’s will is for her life, she picks up her socks and patiently waits to be interrupted.
The Grammy and Dove award winning lyricist and wife of Bill Gaither spoke at the Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG) annual Booster Banquet before a crowd of about 800 people. Over the 45 years of their marriage, she and her husband have penned more than 700 songs including such hymnal standards as Because He Lives, Jesus Paid it All, There’s Something about that Name, and This is the Day that the Lord Hath Made. Since the early 1990s, the Gaither’s Homecoming CD and video series has revived the popularity of Southern Gospel music.
She is a product of a small Christian college like HLG, graduating from Anderson University in Indiana with a degree in French, English and sociology.
“I believe firmly in a Christian liberal arts higher education,” she said. “That in many ways shaped me.”
Gaither spoke to the crowd about finding and doing God’s will in each of their lives, or as she put it, picking up your socks.
“I grew up in a pastor’s home and can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to find God’s will for my life,” she said. “I had this idea that God’s will was this box with a nice red ribbon labeled ‘God’s Will for Your Life.’ You would untie the bow, open the box and inside would be the mate you were supposed to have, the vocation you were supposed to choose; a nice tidy box of God’s will for your life.”
Her parents, on the other hand, showed her God’s will was something much more practical – and complex – than just stumbling upon a box.
“My mother would say to me often that ‘God’s will for your life is God’s will for this minute. Do what you know to do know and don’t ask God for anymore information until you’ve done it with all you’ve got.’ Then she would put that in practical terms: ‘God’s will for your life is to pick up your socks. Don’t ask God for any more information until you’ve done that.’ That was the best advice I’ve ever received and to this day I’m picking up my socks and waiting for God’s next thing.”
Gaither grew up excelling at writing and speaking but planned to serve on the mission field in Africa after college. But as she “picked up her socks” and completed the first steps God had laid before her, His plan interrupted hers. While still a student at Anderson, she began teaching high school French at a small community nearby. A young man named Bill with a crew cut that made his head look “like a suede bowling ball” who had “failed miserably at music” started teaching English that same day.
The Gaithers began writing songs, usually after they asked themselves, “Why isn’t there a song that says that?” Despite Gloria’s reluctance to sing (she can, however, “talk on pitch”), their songs exploded in popularity. All the while, she kept picking up socks, looking for God’s next thing, or, as it had been when she married Bill, God’s interruption.
When Gaither turned 60 in 2002, she asked herself, “What would make the book about my life?” It wasn’t the dozens of awards, fame or notoriety and it certainly wasn’t her plans. It was the interruptions God sent while she was picking up her socks.
“Everything that would make the book was an interruption on my way to do what I thought God wanted me to do,” she said. “I was going to the mission field and I was interrupted by Bill. Then there’s my children who have shaped who I have become. None of this was ever in my plan. Every day I make my list on Post-It notes and everyday God interrupts me. You can plan all you want but most of your life is an interruption. God’s plan has been everything that interrupted my plan.”
Gaither then asked herself if her revelation about God’s will was biblical. She reread the Gospels and found interruptions galore.
“Everything that made ‘the Book’ in Jesus’ life was an interruption,” she said. “His ministry started with an interruption at the wedding in Cana when they ran out of wine. As Jesus was walking teaching His disciples, a leper called out, ‘Jesus! Jesus, Son of David! Have mercy on me!’ You know the rest of the story. It was an interruption. Jesus was teaching inside a jam-packed house and while we don’t have a record of what He said, we do know about the roof falling, about four men lowering their friend down on a gurney through the roof. I’d call that an interruption. They made the Book. I am just now learning how to not get bent out of shape at the interruptions and recognize them as God’s will for my life.”
Gaither ended her time at HLG with a challenge, not only to pick up socks but to embrace God’s interruptions.
“Look at your life,” she said. “I dare you to give God the interruptions. I dare you to invite them and recognize them. When you leave I hope you get so interrupted that you can’t wait to wake up the next morning.”