I’ve been on a one-week holiday from work. No matter what your job is, everyone needs some breathing space once in a while. Life for all of us can get to feeling crowded, like being in a crawl space, crouched down, head butting against a ceiling that is way too low and heart racing, unable to even turn around. Sometimes the busy pace and to-do’s even becomes what “normal” looks like, and we forget that life can be different.
I’m so blessed to have a faith community that reminds one another every day that God’s world is full of space and expansion. As opposed to the tiny, crowded space, Scripture describes God’s world as a “house with many rooms.” (John 14:2) This is exactly what this week has felt like. Meals with friends, a bit of skiing, a good book to read, watching the birds at my feeders, naps. And music.
I took a chance on a recommendation from a music source called Noise Trade a few weeks ago and bought an album by a group with the quirky name of “The Oh Hellos”. Listening and re-listening to their wonderful album called “Through the Deep, Dark Valley”, I’ve felt like I’ve entered the many rooms of God’s house. They are a Christian faith based group, but I’m convinced anyone would love the music as they sing about the whole scope of human experience, struggles and joys both.
Way back when I was a teenager, “Christian music” was my genre of choice. At the time I loved it (though I’m a bit embarrassed now to admit that classic groups such as The Beatles almost entirely passed me by for a decade or more). As my friends and I listened and sang these Christian songs, we declared to the world that we had the “answer”. “Jesus is the answer for the world today…”. I don’t exactly disagree with this assertion now, but it doesn’t leave room for doubt and struggle. There’s a certain heady inflation that comes with knowing all the answers. The lyrics weren’t exactly subtle, but that’s how I saw faith back then. Life was still pretty straight forward and I hadn’t yet bumped into life’s difficulties.
As I entered adulthood, this music didn’t satisfy me anymore. I didn’t need praise songs – it was more like I needed to learn the blues! I didn’t know what to do with my doubts and struggles except enter them. I turned faith over in my heart like a relic from the past that I didn’t know what to do with.
At this juncture, many young people leave the faith they were handed as a child, but Lyle and I have been oh so blessed to have found a faith community with a minister who wasn’t, and still isn’t, afraid to let God embrace the whole scope of human experience. I have experienced that faith can be relevant in this modern world. Jesus does have the answers, but only because he himself entered the darkest struggles in faith and came out the other side. Faith isn’t about being religious.
As I listened to this band over my week off, I felt my heart melt and open once again to the love and open expanses of God’s world. They sing about doubt, struggle, making mistakes and admitting we’ll make mistakes again, but also about the love that comes through it all. Even when we’re in the midst of struggle and God seems hidden, God is there with us, bringing meaning and faith in a world that so desperately needs it.
Over the years, I’ve discovered loads of other music like this. Some bands are overtly Christian, others not, but it all evokes faith and hope. Some of my favorites over the years are Bruce Cockburn, Stephen Fearing, Chic Gamine, definitely the Beatles, Paul Simon and Josh Garrels.
Today is Easter morning, a celebration that is about God bringing healing out of something as terrible as a crucifixion. I’m so grateful we can bring our full selves to God, “warts and all” as they say, and find God to be the best singer/songwriter there is, making a beautiful song out of the dark places of our lives.
Here’s a taste of the group’s music: