How Long To Sing This Song?

JA and Dad

I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He lift me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song

I will sing, sing a new song 

How long to sing this song?

How long to sing this song?

How long...

How sing this song”

                                                                                     (“40” by U2, based upon the words of Psalm 40)


When he was just a baby, I would hold my son Jon Alex in my arms at night and gently sing that song to him. I have no idea why that song or even how I chose that particular song. But from the moment I heard the song for the first time all those years ago, it captivated me. So it became our song.

When he began to miss milestones early in his development, I would sing over him, “How long…to sing this song.”

When he refused to make eye contact with anyone in his early years and acted as if we weren't even there, I would cry, “how long…to sing this song. How long…how long…

When he couldn’t talk, when he couldn’t walk, when he wouldn’t play with toys, when he wouldn’t even acknowledge us, I would sing every night, “how long….to sing this song.”

Every time we saw the pediatrician and he muttered “developmental delay, I would hear those haunting lyrics in my head.

As my vocabulary grew and I learned new words like autism, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder, even then, I would hold him at night and softly sing “how long, to sing this song. How long…how long…”

Those words became my constant lament, my own personal book of Lamentations written from my own pit where my soul lay, crumbled and crushed.

I think everyone has something in their lives that makes them whisper and wonder, "How sing this song."

For me it's questions such as these.

“Who is going to take care of my son when we are gone?”

Will he ever make any progress in his quality of life?

Is this all there will ever be?

How can we ever afford the bills?

What will he do when he is out of school?

Will he ever talk, or even walk on his own?

How is this going to affect our dreams, our goals, our lives?”

How will we take care of him when we are older, even elderly?


O Lord, “How long to sing this song, how long, how long?”


And so we are here tonight are in his room.

His room. My sanctuary.

I call it that because I’m convinced the Spirit of God hangs out at J.A.’s place.

He is sitting cross-legged in his platform swing hanging from the ceiling. I am seated beside the swing, pushing it back and forth while singing our silly, little songs that we ritualistically do in the same order every night.

The moment comes, as it does every night, when I lean over and say, “Jon Alex you are the top dog, the big cheese, the number one son, right hand man, crown prince, heir to the throne, big dog, big wave, big kahuna, my man, wing man, Superman.”

Sounds downright goofy as I write out the words. But it’s our thing. (I don’t care what you think; I don’t sing it to you!)

And at that very moment as I spoke, he reached his feeble arms out and wrapped them around my neck. He pulled himself to a standing position in front of me using his arms. I encircled his waist with my arms to prevent him from falling.

For six seconds that lasted six years to me, he locked in on my eyes with blazing intensity from inches away, and his gap-toothed grin split his face in two.

And then he leaned in and kissed the top of my head, arms around my neck.

Flash bombs of light exploded in my heart at that very moment. How could I possible love anyone more than this beautiful gift I had been given? What had I done that made God deem me worthy of choosing me to be this young man’s father? Why did He lavish His great love on me by giving me Jon Alex to be my son?

Gratefulness, thankfulness, unspeakable love, grace, mercy, joy, peace, contentment, satisfaction, God’s presence, God’s provision, God’s purpose, --like waves of Roman candles on the Fourth of July they came shooting out of the bottom of the pit.

Blazing lights burst and banished the darkness. And when my heart’s eyes adjusted, a rope had unfurled into the pit, curling at my feet.

The cold floor of the pit began to glow and throb furiously. I could no longer feel the miry clay, for my feet had been set upon a rock. The Rock.

God had heard my cry. He lifted me up out of the pit. Out of the miry clay. And I began to sing the rest of the song.


“ I will sing, sing a new song. I will sing, sing a new song.”