Our church is blessed enough to have two places of worship on Sunday mornings. We have a traditional church service in the sanctuary and then a simultaneous contemporary worship service in the gym. Chris and I prefer the contemporary service, but, sadly, the gym’s air conditioning unit had to be replaced this summer, and so our church has been meeting as one congregation in the sanctuary for almost two months now.
Coincidentally, I have been struggling to hear God’s voice for the past few months, too. I talk to Him daily, but I couldn’t hear him talking back to me. Usually, this happens because I am too busy to be still and listen. And I’m sure that was part of it. But when our gym opened back up this morning for the first time all summer for our contemporary service, I began to wonder if maybe there was something else that might have been missing in my faith recently – music.
I am not a musical person. I don’t play any instruments, I sing loud and off-key, and I am always at least two years behind on what’s popular in music. Instead, I prefer my favorites to something new and often find myself going back to music when I yearn for certain things in my life.
When I was first married and we moved to Connecticut, I listened to Kenny Chesney’s album, “Be As You Are,” on repeat that first year. I was homesick for Florida, and his lyrics about sitting on an old blue rocking chair and summer nights and key lime pie helped me feel closer to home. Over time, that album became the soundtrack of the first few years of married life for me. Happy times, sitting on our little back porch in New Haven, Connecticut, with Chris, or hunkered down in a snowstorm, listening to Mr. Chesney croon about running away to an island paradise. And his song, Magic, described the feeling of being a newlywed perfectly to me. Still to this day, whenever I feel nostalgic for happy times or when Chris and I just aren’t firing on all cylinders, I find myself playing this album in my car and being transported to those wonderfully, magical days of being a newlywed so far away from home.
A few years later, when my babies were small and life was chaotic, I found refuge in Norah Jones’ album, “Come Away With Me.” This was mine and Chris’s song, and there was nothing better in life than having finally tucked Bean into his toddler race car bed after a long day, snuggling newborn Gracie against my chest, and sharing a beer with Chris on the back porch of our rental home, while Norah sang lullabies of love over us. Life was incredibly hectic with a toddler and a newborn. Plus, I had just gone back to work and Chris’s job was growing and taking off. We were in a season of blooming where we were planted, and some days, blooming was exhausting. Being able to shut the world out on that back porch with our sleeping babies was a perfect ending to a lovely time in our lives. When I’m struggling to find quiet and peace in my life today, I go back to this album and it fills me with the happiness of that time in my life.
When my dad died four years ago, I had never experienced something to profoundly deep in my life. Even now, I am hard pressed to find the words to explain how that kind of loss feels. I couldn’t hear God speaking to me then, either. And the silence in my faith was like the absence of my very closest friend. When it was hard to form my own thoughts and words, I let Chris Rice’s album, “Peace Like a River” run through my heart. He sang old, classic hymns that I grew up hearing my dad singing in the church pew next to me. My dad’s favorites were on that album, “Rock of Ages” and “Old Rugged Cross” filled the holes in my heart that my dad’s passing had left. I can remember driving to work on my first day back after he died, and literally lifting my hands in praise as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” filled my car speakers. I continue to find faith in this album at times in life when I need it.
This morning, as I sat in the contemporary worship service for the first time in months, I realized what had been missing in my faith recently – it had been the music of this service. Praise songs from my childhood youth groups, old hymns of faith and grace, and songs from Christian radio that my kids and I sing on a daily basis. These are the soundtracks of my walk with God, and I had been missing them.
I still don’t consider myself a musical person, but perhaps I have a musical soul. Maybe the music that binds me to places and times in my life is the music that makes my heart sing. Even if my heart singing sounds a bit like an off-key cat whining in an alley…