I went to a concert tonight, and remembered something that I like to forget about myself: I’m a crier. I never used to be when I was younger. I remember growing up a total tom-boy and seeing those girls who cried at weddings, and babies, and movies, and whatever and just thinking how dumb they looked. And then wouldn’t you know it, about a year into my marriage, God waved his magic wand and turned me into one of them. It taught me a valuable lesson: be careful who you judge. You’ll probably become one.
When John called me on Wednesday night and told me that the band Selah was coming – to our tiny little 10,000 person big Pella – I immediately screamed “Yes!!! Get the tickets!!” Selah are my people. I’ve wanted to meet them for years, but never thought I would. Tonight was my opportunity to meet the individuals who have walked with me through some of my darkest nights.
For the last few days, I pictured what it would be like to be standing on my feet, hands in the air, worshipping in person to songs I knew by heart. What I didn’t expect was to basically be crying the whole time. Music leaves an indelible print on your soul. I remember being an undergrad and our psychology professor talking about how music aids in memory retention, and to listen to the same music while we studied every time. When Selah sang their music, memories came flooding in.
Unfortunately the memories were not the kind that I normally like to think about. These were memories of hospital rooms, MRI machines, PET scans, biopsies, and sleepless nights with a chemo machine attached to me making that unforgettable whooshing sound – reminding me that every 90 seconds, poison was being pumped straight into my veins. But those memories alone were not why I was crying. I was crying because of what was also going on during each of those moments: me, clinging to God in the only way I knew how. I listened to music that told me who God was, His goodness, His faithfulness, and how He had not forgotten me. Almost every song they played at that concert played brought back another memory where I lay helpless on some table, tears rolling down my cheek, choosing to focus on truth, no matter what the world looked like around me. It was very bittersweet.
Most of the procedure rooms at Plano Presbyterian Hospital in Texas have Pandora hooked up. Each and every time a hospital technician asked me “What station would you like,” my answer would be “Selah radio please.” It was a no brainer. And each time I lay on a table – instructed to stay as still as possible – I closed my eyes and listened to the lyrics and meditated on the God I knew from my days in the light, knowing that He was the same God as the one who held me while I trembled in the dark.
As apologists, my husband and I have had our share of conversations discussing the problem of evil and the problem of suffering from an intellectual perspective. (In fact we’re giving a talk on it in March.) I sacrificed my body and my childbearing years to… pretty much medical research. (Who gets small intestinal cancer at 31?! Nobody but me, that’s who. My cancer demographic is elderly black men.) But through it all, I knew that God was good, and each time I started to question that, I put on Selah radio to remind me of truth. Plenty of bands have songs that talk about their feelings. Selah focuses on truths, and truth is what will tether you to the rock when the storms of life have you completely turned upside down.
Apologetics is about defending the faith, but sometimes we think that this defense is all about questions and answers. We don’t think about how, often, defending truth is about perspective. Music and art are powerful, and can reach deep into a part of us that a syllogism never will. CS. Lewis got it. GK Chesterton got it. Art explains truths without words, but music (at least music with lyrics) is the best of both worlds: one foot in art, one foot in creed. When rightly exercised, music gives us a means to meditate on truth during those times when our thoughts are about as coherent and logical as a two-year old, way past their nap-time.
I’ve spent countless hours with tubes sticking out of my body, but each and every time, I had little tubes going into my ears, pumping me full of life-giving songs to meditate on. I just want to give a shout out for all the artists out there who think that they can’t do apologetics. Let me correct that misconception: you can. Or rather, you do – whether you know it or not. Your apologetics will look different than mine, but don’t be deceived for a second that your creations aren’t speaking a message. That message can be one of hope, truth, goodness, and beauty… or not. It is your choice. Thank you Selah for choosing to speak life. (You too Mercy Me, and Casting Crowns. You guys have all been a part of my recovery.)
And if the members of Selah ever read this, thank you for being gracious to me as I was shaking, and crying, and trying to express my gratitude without looking like a total fool. We all need to know that what we do in our little corner of the world matters. It’s easy to forget. So in case you have forgotten (or feel tired from your tour) please take this article as a little bread-crumb of encouragement.
And just for an extra goodie, here is one of my favorite Selah songs of all time. In fact, now that I think of it, we played this during the communion and foot-washing at our wedding. So thanks for being there for the good times too!
And for those who are going through a rough time, here’s a Casting Crowns song that I like to play when things are feeling particularly hopeless. I’ve praised the Lord in my share of storms, and it would have been just a bit harder had I not had the encouragement to keep doing so – piping through my iTunes on repeat.