Do you ever hear a song that takes you back to a moment? There’s just this polaroid of the moment that comes to mind where you remember listening to the song.
Me, at age 15 vs. me, at probably age 2
I see my choir on my first year there, doing hokey hand motions and singing loud and proud to “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay, the sun setting in through the windows at around 6PM, during our rehearsal. I see my MK friend and I having a sleepover, her arm hanging off the top bunk of the bed to my lower bunk so she could play “Hide” by Joy Williams and “Stained Glass Masquerade” by Casting Crowns for me on her phone. I’d just quietly told her, teary-eyed, that my shyness felt fake and stupid. I see my Slovak friend and I, giggling, walking to music camp from a train station, singing the Demi Lovato song, “Catch Me,” back and forth, and discussing boys and how we didn’t really understand them. I see myself laying on the futon bed at my Grandma’s, weeks after moving back stateside, silently crying and praying with all my heart the lyrics to “North” by Sleeping at Last. I see myself listening to “Let it All Out” by Reilent K at 2AM, as I felt the conviction from God one night to quit a writing project unhealthy for my heart. I see my best friend and I singing to “Inheritance” by the Gray Havens in a car, with a family dear to me as God preached to me that I didn’t know what the future held, but it’d be okay if I set my eyes on Him.
I could list more, but we’d be here years.
I remember some songs I won’t listen to anymore that made me think without hope. Songs I sobbed with in the evenings back in America where I wanted to go home but couldn’t totally name home. Songs I remember listening to on my fickle waiting days where I couldn’t see what was ahead and was tired of no answer other than “be still.” I see myself journaling, overthinking, and crying to the song “Postcard” by Jukebox the Ghost at 4AM, unsure of what to do with a good thing God had given me and if I should abandon it in my fear. Not all my song snapshots are even happy.
I remember songs for moments I didn’t know would be significant but the polaroid is still tucked in the back of my brain somewhere.
And sometimes I understand later why.
I listened again to one of my favorite albums, All Things Bright and Beautiful by Owl City. I loved the album then and I love it now, but some songs I dismissed before didn’t make sense until later. While I did feel like busting out of my haunted houses with “Plant Life,” I didn’t understand until God helped me confront sins and issues with more awareness and an ear listening for Him. I didn’t really care about “Hospital Flowers” until I was older and grace really hit me. I understood having begun to recover from my own car wrecks, induced by my own attempts at self-sufficiency. There are just some songs you hear later that might not make sense at the moment.
I was walking in a supermarket, sad from goodbyes earlier, and praying, God, I need something right now. I’m so, so sad. And then the song “The Show” by Lenka, a pop song I never paid attention to, came on. I thought of the lyrics. And I smiled, still sad, but assured that even though I might want to refund my ticket, God wanted me to let go of what I couldn’t hang on to and enjoy the show He was planning.
Every teardrop was a waterfall after I left Slovakia and my choir and yet I could see a light, emerging, blinking into, to tell me it’s alright; God drew me so much closer in grief.
I found hope in the moments I understood I didn’t need people to ask me why I was quiet so I could enjoy the attention. I could bring every ache to Jesus and He blessed me with people who loved my weird side and encouraged me to live not for my own attention-seeking, but with confidence I am made the way He planned–and learning what He planned is now redeemed and growing. That is enough.
I know now that sometimes you have to fall back in a trust exercise not just with other people, but God. I learned that wisdom and risk aren’t opposites, but sometimes have to be put together with the risk being only true if you look at it like God isn’t there. It’s not actually risk with God, but faith. Sometimes I have to fall back into God’s arms and learn He graciously is with me every step; I can trust His grace in the good He’s given me when I can’t always understand why. I can just let Him catch me when I give it all up.
I can look north, up on high, to see the hope God gives me. My roots and permanent home are not here on earth. However, I can trust He’ll give me strength, faith, and grace wherever I am and however broken, in order to share Jesus. He provides my bread, salt, and wine.
I let it all out, ripped it out, removed it, unsure what I’d do after. Though I struggle writing and art, and have no idea if that’s what God wants me to do, I see fruit graciously come from some of my creations. I thank God for people encouraged by my work, because it’s God assuring me, “I can use your brokenness.” The ending justifies the pain it’s taken to get me here. If God hadn’t broken my heart the many times He allowed it in my life, things would’ve gotten worse. And thank my God He breaks my heart sometimes because then I wouldn’t know how mucky and dying it already was and how much I needed His healing hand. I learned to sacrifice and be willing to give up things for God’s plan, painful as it can be, but at the same time, I learned that I am not the world’s superhero. I can’t take it all onto my shoulders, but I can do all things through God’s strength by placing it on Him. I can face what I don’t understand because I can trust Him. It’ll be alright. Even if I am left completely on my own, love lost in the dream light, scrapped of everything I hoped for, in the end, God is with me…despite what the lonely feeling of waiting on a postcard from a lost love might be like.
I doubt my inheritance sometimes, but He’s led me on the boat anyway, seasick but finding hope in seeing my homeland one day, even if I don’t get how we’re getting there. I am confident and bold no longer in myself but in my Capitan and that’s what I trust, since I can never know the whole journey. I only know the hope I have in the end God’s graciously given and that He’s sailing with us the whole way.
Note that not all this music is “Christian.” I’m not saying Christian music or secular is better. I’m saying God is best because He managed to speak through whatever He chose. He graciously uses the bad past in the end too. Even when I listened to crap, even if I did crap, God teaches me now in my redemption. I learn from mistakes and He gets His will done.
I once received fantastic advice from an older woman about relationships, took notes and everything, and then the next day ignored it and acted very silly and worried anyway. I look back on those notes now and see God taught me through years all the things she’d told me anyway, even in pain. I didn’t even think of it that way. Despite me not listening then, He worked it out in a way that pulled me closer to Him. If that’s not God’s grace in teaching, I don’t know what is.
I hope, friend, whatever you’re listening to, you’re asking yourself, “What am I being taught here?” and if you don’t know now, may God help you understand, all in His time.
- Hebrews 4:14-16 (Jesus has been where you’ve been. Nothing is new to Him and He knows where you are and will walk with you through it.)
- Acts 13:26-41 (Paul was asked on his earlier mission trip with Barnabas to speak encouragement in the synagogue. What better encouragement than the Gospel itself? I think he tells the story of Jesus all the way from the beginning with the prophets and David and all to say, “Look, God kept His promises!” Sometimes looking back on the past shows us how far God’s brought us and that He can be trusted with our futures. And that’s especially true in the case of the salvation Jesus brings, like Paul’s saying here.)
- “Swelling Sea” by Tow’rs (One of my songs from waiting times. It’s light and gave me hope when I didn’t understand)
- “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons (A friend of mine told me he’d dismissed this song as boring when he was younger, but recently rediscovered it to be a masterpiece. He called it a “firm grasp of the hand.” Really a great reminder we aren’t alone in fellowship and confusion either.)
- My favorite treat: “Arms,” a Christina Perri cover by Elleni, my MK fren with the lovely voice. (She did this song at a youth retreat talent show last year. I didn’t get to be there, but this video has stuck with me a long time and makes me smile.)
Special thanks to Elleni for singing “Arms” and Mr. Larry for letting me use the vid, to Jonah for “Timshel,” to Anna Banana and Sarah B. for being my drahí priatelia, Heather for her advice many years ago, and to Kaz the dork and Fusion BA for helping expand my music taste a bit. Y’all rock my socks. ❤
I hope you are encouraged through the media you’re consuming in your walk with God. I hope God’s using your broken in lovely ways. And I hope you’re filled with peace as you sometimes don’t understand, knowing that that’s okay. God’s got dis.
Much love, frens.