The other morning my Pandora station brought out a song that I hadn’t heard in a while. It took me back to Summer Project (#SDSP) and my initial thought was, man we should sing more of THIS at church on Sunday. My honest self will tell you I was tempted to email Bob and make a kindly suggestion. I refrained – thank goodness – and soon realized that this song is over 10 years (!) old.
I specifically remember thoughts of disdain when I went to churches and heard praise songs that were “at least 10 years old.” Come on, folks, let’s get with the times, I would say to myself. Shine Jesus Shine had its days of glory, but we’ve moved on.
Now, it seems, my musical preferences fit more into the archaic category. As KLR would say: another nail in the coffin. I suddenly have more empathy for the elders of our church, the ones from whom the larger evangelical “contemporary” movement has been trying to pry away the hymns and organ.
Music has such a powerful way of shaping and growing us. The tunes I hold dear don’t just have a catchy rhythmical structure. They catch my heart because of their presence in my life during significant moments. They are the soundtrack to my faith story.
I remember singing and crying to a Jars song about being “between worlds”when driving to and from Athens my freshmen year, trying to figure out how I fit into this new, big place. Then came the Lakeside years and the handfuls of songs that call me to remember specific kids and moments. I cry nearly every time I hear Blessed be the Name because it was led so often during a period of time while I grieved for our friend Vanessa. Never Let Go takes me immediately back to Findlay and a difficult period of transition for our family.
My heart leaps in hearing Listen to our Hearts because it made a round of my college friends’ weddings and I cried at the weddings, too. My mom learned a Chris Tomlin song soon after her dad and brother passed away, and I cry when I hear it, knowing it provided a healing balm to the sting of death.
I sang a DC*B song, Never Let Go, over and over and over after a miscarriage to remind me that In sun and rain, in joy and pain, You’re the same, You never let go. I heard a preacher once say to “sing until it’s true” and that’s what I did in that period. I sang it until I believed it. I did – and I do.
Music doesn’t just tickle the ears, but rather supports our hearts with truths. It sings to us the bigger story. Even the scriptures remind us to “sing to one another the Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” because the ancients knew that music has a way of burning the truths into permanent memory.
Which is why we need to honor those whose own soundtracks include songs from yesteryear. Even more, because they share a soundtrack with many more generations than my own. My mom doesn’t have the same faith soundtrack as me, but I have to wonder if my grandmother shares one with her mom. Likely they sang the same choruses throughout their homes despite generational changes, much the same way most of us treat Christmas music. We don’t necessarily love Hark! The Herald Angels Sing because the words spur us to action – who actually knows what it means? Rather, we love its heritage, its place in the rhythm of our years.
So be gentle, you young whippersnapper, when you rebuke the hymns of yesteryear. I have to believe that music (at least the kind used by churches) doesn’t exist just to tickle our ears or cause our foot to tap. It’s a tool for us to tell our story, to declare truths, to evoke thoughts that we can’t put to words until a base line provides the framework.
Someday a young person will tell me that Marvelous Light is irrelevant to the next generation and we need to move on. And then I’ll cry a little because they’re not just making my taste in music obsolete, they’re moving my story into the archives.