In all the years that I have sung, professional and unprofessional, in and out of church, there has never been another song that I’ve been asked to sing as often as, “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”. This particular video of my performance is from a day of celebration and commemoration for an anointed minister, Rev. Wiley Martin. I have so many memories attached to singing this song and this is one of my favorites.
I also have powerful memories related to my first time hearing “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”. The first time that I heard this song, I was about 12 years old, living in Bolivia, NC on “Mud Road” (seriously!), and had never attended a large-scale music concert. One particular evening, my grandparents had arranged to take me to a Bill Gaither Concert somewhere north of Wilmington.
1) riding to the concert with my grandparents, my aunt, and my uncle in their “luxury” vehicle. My mama and daddy were very hard workers and they always provided for all my brother’s, sister’s, and my needs…but my grandparents represented sophistication. Their cars always smelled of leather, perfume, cologne, and Certs. I loved it! In fact, I always loved the “signature” smell of my grandmother. She smelled stylish, beautiful, and calmly in control of life. When my brother, sister, and I would be waiting for the school bus at the end of our road, she would pass us on her way to work at the bank (UCB in Shallotte, NC). She’d roll the window down on her black Chrysler or black Lincoln town car; her smell would waft from the car window as she would greet us with her bright eyes and delighted smile, handing out Certs and telling us how wonderful we were and how much she loved us. I could write all day about Peepaw. But I won’t, for now. I will add, though, that whenever I walk into a Belk’s store, no matter where I am, and those doors open to the inside, I can smell the richness of the products and perfumes waiting for her appraisal and I always think of her.
2) my grandmother, raised as a Pentecostal, singing alto to every gospel song that played on the radio to and from the concert. She had a strong, rich, straight alto voice. She played piano and sang, primarily by ear, for her church.
3) my Aunt, pregnant at the time, wanting to stop for a burger on the way. We were running just a tad late when my Aunt spotted a burger joint and pointed at it with glee, demanding that we stop, and my Uncle, who was driving, also pointing to the burger joint saying, “Baby, wave bye-bye.”
4) hearing Michael English sing, “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”. I was blown away. I had never experienced such a powerful “church” moment in song, nor had I seen, in person, such a great talent serving the Lord. As the audience was held rapt by the lyrics and performance, my grandmother, seated next to me in the audience, leaned into me and whispered into my ear, “Sugar, one day you are going to sing this song for 1,000’s of people.” (typing this now, I am crying just remembering her say this to me. Man, how I love my PeePaw…she always had such a powerful influence over my life.) Since the churches I had attended all my life were typically 50 or fewer in attendance, I knew my PeePaw was just being her typically loving and encouraging self. I could not bear the thought of singing in front of a crowd…much less could I imagine a crowd of 1,000’s. Nothing in my life was THAT big! But I still liked that she had said it.
Like the original writer, I do think often of a city called “glory”. I can’t wait to walk upon those streets as my faith in Christ and His word is made into sight. I look forward to seeing all my loved ones that have gone before me. I have great grandparents there, my Great Aunt Faye and Great Aunt Thelma are there, I have a child there…and now I’m crying again. I look forward to seeing the Savior of the world, my personal Savior, Jesus Christ.
At any rate, I’m not sure if my Peepaw meant to say that “I’d sing this song for 1,000’s of people” or that “I’d sing this song 1,000’s of times”…because both incidents ultimately came true. I love that this song has meant so much to so many and that it has provided me many opportunities to share in moments of worship, moments of mourning, and moments of great music with a great many great people.