Sitting against the wooden headboard of our bed, I cuddled my firstborn against my chest and rocked my body back and forth as I sang “Jesus Loves Me” over and over. The bouncer seat sat on the floor next to the bed and the baby swing was tucked in a corner. Even with these newest gadgets, my 5-month-old preferred my out-of-tune voice and a gentle swaying motion at three o’clock when he couldn’t sleep. I remember spending hours on some nights, singing over him every song I could remember, from “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” to “Goober Peas.” To this day, on special nights, both of my boys ask me to sing for them. What is it about these songs, passed down from my mother, that speak to them? Perhaps it is just as author Hans Christian Andersen said, ““Where words fail, music speaks.” Although, for me, the words of the music are just as powerful as the melody behind them.
In this week’s episode of When Calls the Heart, after returning home from fighting in the northern territories, Jack invites Elizabeth to a romantic dinner on their property. The twinkling lights of candles and lanterns illuminate them both as Elizabeth arrives on horseback. Moments later, Jack asks Elizabeth to dance and pulls out a small music box. Before opening it, he explains that he listened to it every night before going to sleep and the thought of dancing with Elizabeth to the song kept him going through all of the challenges he faced. Somehow, the simple melody of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” played by a small music box has the power to restore and revitalize a battle-worn mountie. What is it about music that so encourages and uplifts us? For me, the lyrics speak directly to my soul.
The first artist I began following as a young teen was Amy Grant. Prior to that, all of my musical interests stemmed from my mom. In fact, it wasn’t until adulthood that I discovered the Beach Boys were NOT an eighties band and that John Denver did not top the musical charts in 1989. Yet, my own first real memory of music impacting my spirit is inextricably linked with my mom. When I was 15, we drove 7 hours to attend a modeling seminar in Los Angeles. Driving late into the night, we belted out some of Amy Grant’s classics. A favorite of ours was “Angels Watching Over Me.” What I didn’t realize at the time, but now know deep down in my soul, is that those lyrics and that experience with my mom formed the foundation of my spiritual walk and became my earliest teaching about what it meant to have the unconditional love of my God.
Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” As a young college student, I joined other friends and believers on Sunday evenings for nights of worship and praise. One such night, after spending the weekend away at a college retreat, I raised my hands as high as I could and sang as loud as my voice could go, praising Jesus for the friendships I had developed and the renewal I felt in my spirit. As I sang, a fountain of joy bubbled up inside me and I laughed out loud in response.
Now, as an adult, I feel God using music to touch my spirit in other ways. After days where nothing seems to go right, or when I feel completely empty and used up by the responsibilities of a teacher, a wife, and a mother, I turn to specific songs to minister to my brokenness and exhaustion. While Amy Grant’s music is still ever-present in my playlist, I’ve added many others with deep faith who are walking the same road I am walking. Ellie Holcomb’s “Red Sea Road” is a staple. Christy Nockels album “Be Held” soothes my spirit with sweet hymns and lullabies. Christa Wells beautiful lyrics speak for me when my soul cannot.
What song keeps you going? Is it the lyrics that speak for you or the melody that ministers to your soul? Perhaps it is neither. Perhaps the restoration and celebration that come through music is really the Holy Spirit working His ways in you and music is just one more perfect gift from the Lord.