Every Song Becomes a Psalm
I always looked for God in music. Lyrics and melody always grounded me in a special way. Growing up in the evangelical church all music was supposed to be about Jesus. Yet even as I ventured outside the safe confines of Christian music, I still kept listening intently for God in every song I heard. I felt like there was something special about finding the divine in a thing considered secular by my tradition. Working later at a Christian camp, I felt like if I could ground a skit or a drama scene in a Coldplay song or something else a kid might hear on a radio that it might stick better with students. They could hear God pop up outside the confines of the church. And so I always listened for God in music.
I have discovered that when you try to look for God—if you dedicate yourself to that quest—you will find God even when that was never intended. “Wonderwall” by Oasis is absolutely not a song about God and yet the line “Maybe you’re going to be the one that saves me” still stirs something spiritual inside of me. I projected my faith into the world and I found that faith in many places. The reward has been that, in the moments when I need it, every song becomes this connection to this faith that sustains me and keeps me afloat. I can’t not hear God calling to me from a car stereo.
A couple of nights ago, I found myself driving through my hometown to get myself and my sons dinner. I rolled down the windows like I did when I drove around as a teenager and sang along with the song playing on my stereo. I have found myself listening a lot to The Avett Brothers’ I and Love and You recently and the title song is what was playing on my phone as my car wound its way down the road that leaves my parents’ house:
Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in / Are you aware of the state I’m in? / My hands they shake my head it spins / Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn take me in.
With the autumn Carolina air whipping into my car after a long month and a half, the Brooklyn of the song might as well have been another name for God. I know it’s the New York burrough, but at that juncture my heart knew that it was a cry out to something bigger. It was to Jesus that my soul was begging to take me in. And it was not just the words, but the music, and the alchemy of what was going on inside of me. Outside of the context, that may seem silly or not important, but I can promise you that in that moment it meant the world to me.
There are times when I roll my eyes at my younger self’s quest to make every song about God. But you know what? I shouldn’t. All those years have given me the eyes to see and the ears to hear God is all sorts of places. I’m beyond grateful for that. It keeps me sane. It helps me to unexpectedly find hope or a cry of anguish when I need it. It reminds me that I’m not alone and part of a bigger picture. Where can I flee from Your presence? The answer is nowhere when every song is a psalm.