Earlier this evening we were listening to a radio station when an Oasis song from 1994 was played. Straight away I was transport back to 20 years ago. Facing my GCSEs, thinking that my life was panning out in a particular direction (how many times…). An almost visceral reaction to a few moments of music.
It’s incredible how it can have that impact on us. Like you, I’m sure, I have something like a soundtrack to my life in my head, which when triggered can really transport me back to wherever and whenever that particular piece of music captured me. They can be the weirdest tracks, the most bizarre links…and yet they speak deeply to me.
Each day on this year of bible features words from the psalms. These are the ‘soundtrack’ of the church in many ways – the songs we keep returning to again and again. As I reflected on the song I heard earlier today I began thinking about some of the psalms which featured at particular times in my life.
Psalm 139 when everything fell apart at 16 and the got put together again…
Psalm 1 on my gap year as I was seeking to root myself…
Psalm 51…well…whenever I (all too frequently) messed up…
Psalm 63 in the midst of uncertainty on the journey out of the Salvation Army…
Psalm 23 as words tumbling into my mind preparing a eulogy for my Grandma’s funeral…
We could go on.
These words capture us, challenge us, enliven us, confuse us…
They speak out of the depths of the entire human experience – not just the incredible moments when everything is so straightforward, but the bitterness and anger of rejection and uncertainty. They are human…and yet divine…
Right now the psalms which speak to me are those which call out to God for a sense of presence (for example psalm 44). Sometimes they speak of abandonment, sometimes of despair, sometimes of simple emptiness. I’m not pretending that this is the depth of my experience, but instead it reminds me of the vital place of questioning within the journey. The place where we stand and cry out ‘why’…where we remember the promises, the covenants and we attempt to once more invoke those days gone by whilst simultaneously pressing into the not yet.
We need songs for the journey that don’t ignore these moments. We need songs that speak of disappointment and uncertainty. To ignore them is to ignore life. Let’s not focus on the happy-flappy and emotional manipulation. Let’s be real for once.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of many of these psalms is the way they end. Not with a whimper but with a statement – “and yet still I will praise you”.
This is incredible.
I’m abandoned and yet God, I’m still going to believe.
You’ve let me down…and yet I’m still going to believe.
I’m hurting…and yet.
I’m lost…and yet.
Where are you?
The answer is not always as we expect…or even there at all…but that shouldn’t stop us from asking in the first place.
So as we walk this road I wonder if we could create something that embraces this lost heritage. Something that expresses the fullness of the life we live seeking to follow – the gethsemane as well as the resurrection, as it were.
Then, well then we’re singing.