I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? (Psalms 121:1)
I promise to love you regardless of your love, like, or dislike of Christian music.
You’ve heard me say it before: I don’t like Christian music.**
I know, however, that I will need to elaborate as I am writing to an audience of Congregationalists for whom “Christian music” could be anything from Amazing Grace to Handel to African American spirituals.
What I’m talking about is what you get when you ask your kitchen “Alexa” to play “Christian Music.” Groups like “Hillsong” and “MercyMe” show up including gorgeous if not simplistic pieces queuing up with names like “Jesus Saves” and “I believe” and “My Savior God.” From one to the next I hear a pattern: A verse that draws a picture of life in all of its temptations and tribulations followed by the oft repeated refrain that includes the *seemingly simple* answer to life which is, in a nutshell, Jesus.
And the music, if I may comment from my 46 years of musical education and experience beginning with Barry Manilow, moving through punk, hanging out in grunge for way too long (admittedly I may never have left), though with some appreciation for jazz, classical, and the organ at Radio City Music Hall, is not what I would call creative or even challenging. One can expect possibly a minor key during the verses but things will quickly turn major as the singers proclaim through the refrain that “Jesus is Lord!” YES! “JESUS IS LORD!” and then, in harmonies that are at a perfect 1/3rd interval, “JESUS IS LORD OF ALL!”
Maybe you’re thinking, sounds beautiful! What’s not to love?!
A lack of Dissonance, tension and conflict, that’s what.
I don’t know about you, but my life and faith is anything but perfect harmonies and confidence in my Lord and Savior as the answer to everything. There are more unanswered questions in my day than there is scripture to solve them. And, I have discovered, this is true for most of the folks I meet with over coffee or lunch or tears.
And the most faithful people I know are the ones who live squarely in the middle of tension. They are the ones who have the deepest and most heartfelt conversations with God. I mean, can you imagine the emotional and mental growth of a child if that child never asked questions of her parents, never even questioned that parent’s knowledge or experience in this world? Have you ever even heard of a child who only sings, “You are the answer, mom. Whatever you say is exactly right.”
I have found, especially recently, that God is far more approachable, far more accessible in times of tension and dissonance. And it is when I ask questions rather than repeatedly proclaiming Christ’s sovereignty, that I can feel God’s love and mercy holding me, sitting beside me, or simply acknowledging the hard stuff that is my life in that moment.
It is these dissonant moments, months or even years, that have us crying out to Christ and to one another, my God, why have you forsaken me? That had our ancestors singing songs (psalms) with lyrics like “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” and “Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly.”
These are the minor key, dissonant cords that, again and again, call us into the presence of a loving and compassionate God. They are the blues riffs and the gospel solos. They are the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young harmonies that are impossible to break apart. They are the Dueling banjos and the Good Friday hymns.
They are the cords of our lives promising the one thing that is sustainable in good times and bad:
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore. (psalms 121:8)
**Disclaimer… the opinions of the author are hers and hers alone. Just because she has this opinion and feels strongly about it does not mean she is right. Your love of Christian music does not and will never preclude you from her love and care. Though she may look at you funny.