I have an interesting relationship with music. I am not much for musical skill on my own, but I’ve usually got music going in my office, I listen as I walk my dog, and I find that many moments of my life have been defined by certain songs. For example, I still remember driving home one night in college after my first BIG breakup with a girlfriend and Cinderella’s song, “Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘til it’s Gone” came on KBPI radio in Denver…
So, as I have been going through lots of discerning over the last few months leading to our decision to move into a new field of ministry, its not surprising that several songs have been a part of that journey.
The first song came from U2’s new album. It was a song that initially felt like a reprise of a song from their previous album but quickly began to speak very differently to me in the context of discerning where the Lord was calling me and us to. The song is called 13 (There is a Light). I wrote about it here – https://imagoscriptura.com/2017/12/12/hope-09-light/ – It is a song that speaks to the unknown…”when the terrors of the night come sneaking into your bed…and the world comes stealing children from your room…”when the wind screams and shouts and the sea is a dragon’s tail and the ship that stole your heart away sets sail...” I listened to that song over and over again throughout December as that was the place I found myself – wrestling with what direction was ahead for us. It was a scary place to be looking at a decision that was going to lead to a big place of unknowns. There was a lot of wondering and wrestling about whether it was the right choice and this song spoke to the hope that shines even in the midst of darkness. “We know that the darkness always gathers around the light…there is a light we can’t always see if there is a world we can’t always be…if there’s a dark that we shouldn’t doubt…and there is a light don’t let it go out.”
There was another song from the same album that was played nearly every time right after 13…“Love is Bigger Than Anything.” The title is pretty self-explanatory but that was a message I needed to be reminded of over and over. No matter what happened, no matter what the final decision was, no matter what was ahead, Love is bigger. Love ultimately wins in the end. Love is bigger than anything else. That’s ultimately the Gospel story – love wins in the end. Death, hate, and sin do not have the final word. God does. Love does. No matter what was out there in the unknown, Love wins in the end. Love is bigger. Amen.
Once the decision became clearer, another song came into the rotation while the others faded away a bit. In early January, I downloaded Amanda Opelt’s recent album, Embers, and was listening to it while I walked the dog one night. I hadn’t looked at the names of any of the songs and one of the final songs came on and it quickly became clear that it was about wrestling with the challenges of saying goodbye. The song is entitled Fare thee Well. As I was walking with Scout and taking in the words to this song, I just broke down and all the grief and pain that I had been holding onto was released. For several blocks as we walked, the song continued to play, and I continued to cry deeply. There was so much that I was grieving about moving on and it was a needed and a powerful and a beautiful release. I later found a blog post on her website where Amanda writes about the genesis of the song and gives the lyrics as well
The whole song is powerful but especially the final blessing in it that she repeats beautifully many times as the song closes.
Fare thee well
May He draw you up from the deep, dark waters
And lead you out to an open space
May He draw you up from the ash and embers
And lead you out to the sound of song
I love the imagery of this and the hopefulness of it – that while there is grief in the leaving and the loss, there is new life that comes out of what is closing as something new is born. (Side funny note about this – as the song was coming to a close and I was still feeling some of the tears, I felt Scout pulling on the leash only to find her having found a dead squirrel…)
And then came the final grouping of songs and probably the ones that feel the most “out of left field.” The Sunday afternoon before I shared the news with our Session, our family went to see The Greatest Showman (which is a phenomenal movie, btw). Without commenting on the accuracy of the portrayal of PT Barnum, it is a beautiful, fun, energetic, movie with some amazing amazing music. The crux of much of the movie is a willingness to step out on a tightrope and following your passion and seeing what happens from there. (It also explores the unhealthy side of that living, but that’s for another blog post). Since seeing the movie, I have been obsessively listening to the soundtrack. The songs speak of trusting in the beauty and gifts that are within each of us, of being willing to step out onto the tightropes that life lays before us, of dreaming big, and of those who walk the tightrope alongside.
As has been the case many times over in my life, I am sure in whatever is before us, there will be songs that will be those that come alongside and speak into the wonder and the beauty and in what’s next. As always, God’s got this…