When I started coming back to church after years of being away, I looked up at the screen and this was on the screen;
“This one thing I ask, is to know you and to make you known”
I was like, um thats two things.
And it was in that moment, right there, where I realized that not everyone shares my affinity for caring what they sing. They just like singing.
And I get that. I mean it easier and it feels good.
But I don’t think that is the point of singing is it? Feeling good?
I mean, is that the point of singing to God, so we can feel good?
Music has a giant role in most of our lives; from making our commutes manageable, to making us cry at that right moment in movies, too helping us deeply connect with our creator. Music does all of that. It has the power to take us back to our teenage years when we had to make mix-tapes by pausing the cassette at just the right time! Music floods us with memories and highlights of days gone by. It is almost magical.
If you go to almost any church these days, they probably spend 30-60 minutes singing. That is a lot. It’s a lot to even manage logistically! But why? And who is all that singing for? Does God even like this mix? Personally, I think Sigur Ros is closer to heavens music than some of the popular ‘christian’ music, but that is just my opinion (or maybe Sleeping At Last… if you don’t know them you should look them up. I’ll wait…)
In one of the churches I where I worked a long time ago, I remember sitting there while we sang a very strange song.
“Set me on fire,
Set me on fire,
Set me on fire today!”
So, we are looking to become arsonists now? Or stunt men? What the heck are we singing that for? I asked in our staff meeting that week that maybe we could explain to people the meaning behind the song before we sang it?! Even explain what fire it was talking about so someone doesn’t report us to the fire chief or something! The very next week, the worship leader sang it again. No explanation. No forethought to those who may never understand what this churches fascination with fire was.
I felt so disconnected from what the whole point of ‘worship’ was.
I felt isolated, alone and questioning why I even sang.
A few months later, I attended a huge youth gathering. There was a band there that captivated me. At first it was the bass literally moving my chest. Then I noticed the guy playing bass on the chello. And then I really listened to the music. It was amazing. They sang a song that I haven't forgotten to this day. The Band was the Myriad. The singer said, “If you are here tonight, and maybe you didn’t connect with God like some of these other people. Maybe you feel disconnected or even a little lost. This song is for you.”
The song, was simple. It was a rock song. It was an honest song. And the band played this;
“Tonight, we will be disappointed together” (listen here)
That line got me. Because there were times I felt disconnected from God. There were times when singing some churchy song was not enough. I needed to be a little sad. I wanted to feel my emotion and that was not always happiness. Its like the kids movie inside out! We all sometimes don't realize the need for sadness. The need to feel the full gamut of emotions. There were times I needed God to show up on my behalf, and I never heard any ‘christian’ songs that resonated with that.
For the majority of my life, people called their happy, Jesus loves me music 'worship', but I always felt like it lacked something…. honesty. (side note, if you want a song that reflects some honesty with God, check out this song my All Sons and Daughters. Its a good one)
I was working at a church a few years back. The place was rocking. Full of life and energy as the band played. I stood there in front (where we had to sit) and started reading the beautiful words on screen. I was caught up in them. They had so much depth and meaning. I was thinking about who wrote them, how they must have felt. The words were combined with great notes and composition and the band was getting it. I was caught up in this beautiful moment. If you looked at me at the time, it would have looked like I was almost disinterested, but I wasn’t. I was fully engaged.
That week, I was told I need to take my hands out of my pockets. I was told that I needed to express more because people are watching me and since I am a leader, I needed to express to them what 'worship' looked like. So now, I walked to the front each Sunday, with anxiety as I was no longer encouraged to enter that way, my way. I now had to focus on ‘how’ I looked. I had to focus on my hands and what I do with them. I now lost my honestly because I looked different, I thought differently.
I realized something. Sometimes people will not understand you because you are different. Sometimes, God is more interested with you showing up then about how you look when you get there. Be brave and honest. Sing with your soul. Sing to God your praise and your laments.
This week @ story, we looked at a very weird passage in Psalm 139. It was verse 7.
"Happy those who seize your children and smash them against a rock."
What. The. Heck.
Why would God even include this in the bible? Isn’t the psalms supposed to be all worshippy, God loves me stuff?
See, this is a lament. It is not God talking, it is the writings of the people in Jerusalem after the Babylonians have invaded and destroyed it. They expressed how they felt to God. They wanted revenge. They wanted God to get revenge for them. They were hurt.
I think God includes this in scripture for us to see that there are times we need to EX-press our true feelings and that is not always pretty. Music, can help us do that. Poetry can help us do that. Artists can help us do that. We need to find ways to do that. We sing songs about our experiences, our joy, our disappointment. Our heartbreak and our victories.
God does answer this prayer for them, but not in the way they want. God doesn’t want the violence and bloodshed to continue. The people wanted the messiah to come as a conquering hero to 'save' them and set up a kingdom here, but he came as a lamb. He came forgiving and loving people. He healed and got killed for it. He was bashed instead of their enemies in the name of love, to bring peace, and to restore mankind. He gives us a chance to know who God is. If there ever was something to sing about, I think that would be a great thing to sing about.
My hope with this post is that we all understand that music has a beautiful place in our lives. That just as we need to express our praise and thanks, we also need a space to express our true feelings to God (and I think he welcomes that). I hope you to find music that encourages you, uplifts you and brings you to a good place. I pray you find a great sense of peace and calm, as well as space to feel the full gamut of emotions that we all feel. I pray you sing your heart out and rock out, dance like you mean it and open up to song that is in your heart; whatever that looks like. :)