It's no secret that music and memory have a strong connection.
A song comes on the radio, and we return to that junior high dance or stadium concert or all-night road trip. The melody takes us to a place in our past, or the rhythm reminds us of a dream about our future. Sometimes music resurrects what we have forgotten.
I had one of those moments on a recent Sunday morning with Bebo Norman's "I Will Lift My Eyes." As I readied for worship, I sang along with the words I'd first heard six years ago.
God, my God, I cry out.
Your beloved needs you now.
God, be near. Calm my fears....
I bounced around the house with joy as each line came back to me. I rejoiced with the beauty of the psalms expressed in the song. I looked forward to the day ahead: of preaching the Word and fellowshipping with God's people and enjoying life.
Then came the chorus.
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans' raging wild.
I will lift my eyes to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside.
That's when the memories of 2010 returned.
The memory of feeling rejected at the end of a relationship.
The memory of watching two friends fight cancer.
The memory of questioning my call to ministry.
The memory of waking up every morning and singing this prayer because of feeling hurt.
The memory of singing the song and wondering if I really meant the words.
Hurt is a short word with a broad scope of meaning. It describes the disappointment we feel when our relationships don't live up to the expectations we had. It also describes a much greater pain--like that we felt as a "hurting nation" fifteen years ago on September 11. Hurt is emotional, physical, and spiritual. As human beings, we are acquainted with hurt.
Many times I could not sing the line about lifting my eyes to "the Healer of the hurt I held inside" because I would dissolve into tears. Yet I tried to sing. I tried to lift my eyes. What brought me the greatest comfort was that the people who wrote the psalms on which the song was based likely sang through their own tears, too. They continued to worship through the pain. They tried to lift their eyes away from the hurt and to the healer.
I've never cared for the phrase, "Fake it till you make it." Faking rejects the power of lament and expressing our realness before God. But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I do believe in singing the song till you mean it. I believe in singing the words of a prayer from our hearts even when our minds are far away.
When King David was running from Saul, hiding in a cave, he sang in confidence that the Lord would take care of him. Can you hear the nervous waver in his voice, coupled with the confidence of his heart?
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody. (Psalm 57:7)
I don't know when I quit sing-praying "I Will Lift My Eyes" every morning. I don't recall an exact moment that the hurt began to heal. But I do remember singing. Now the song brings back not a painful memory of rejection but a remembrance soaked in the grace of a steadfast God.
Worship turns our eyes from the hurt to the Healer.
The healing can be slow.
The healing can be hard.
But the healing comes to each of our lives.
The healing has already come through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us claim that healing with King David and all who have sung before us by lifting our eyes--and voices--to the One who makes us whole.
all good things to each of you,