Two weeks ago I had an epiphany. I can feel music.
Now, that may not sound like much of an epiphany to you, but for me, it was the moment of clarity that resolved a months-long inquisition into my story.
You see, music played a huge role in my development. As a child, my dad would play Bach, Beethoven and Handel throughout our small house; the music coming from the record player would absolutely consume the space. In the car, they played the staples-their favorites, and we listened to them over and over and over. I never grew weary of it, rather, the musical habits became part of our family atmosphere-how we operated.
My freshman year, my music began to become important to me: music that spoke to me or made a lasting memory in my brain. This was the point at which I became aware that music could shape my image. I remember, and perhaps you do too, listening to the radio, waiting for that certain song to come over the airwaves. I had my tape recorder on ‘record’ with the ‘pause’ button depressed, and the moment I heard the opening notes to the song, I would release the machine to work its magic and capture my music. I tended to like the odd songs-not necessarily ‘B-side’ recordings, but obscure songs by not-so -mainstream artists. And, in this simple reality, I started to feel some validation in being apart from the mainstream.
I had been going to local concerts during my early high school years, but in my junior year I found my groove. I found the music that resonated deeply at my core: both the message and the delivery. It was anti-establishment, and anti-mainstream. I immersed myself in the scene and spent years there.
But, as so many of us are expected to do, I put aside those things and found my way into corporate culture. I spent four more years in college. And, perhaps in a new attempt to include music in my identity, I became a ‘worship leader’ at our church. Over the course of a decade, I served different age groups and classes: one man with a guitar, a voice, and a repertoire of songs. My skills improved and my voice strengthened, but looking back, I was missing a key ingredient.
I did not know how to worship.
Upon making this realization, I ended my role as worship leader, determined that I would no longer pretend at something as significant as leading people into a place of adoration, contemplation and yieldedness to God. After all, I had no idea what that looked like in my own personal life.
It has been a decade since I drew that line in the sand. And, over the last ten years, God has taught me increasingly what it looks like to worship. Over the last few months I have begun wondering what would come of worship and music in my life. When I look back on the role music played in shaping my identity, I see elements of falsehood. I see how I used music to create the image I wanted others to see in me. Did I ever truly appreciate music or did I simply use it as a manipulation? Is music part of who I truly am, or only a reflection of who I falsely was?
Two weeks ago, still wrestling over these questions, I had a musical epiphany. I sat in the Segerstrom Concert Hall, and in two completely different performances, I was overcome by music. In one case, it was the first chair of the Pacific Symphony’s violin section. In the other, it was the single voice of a young woman, performing a tonal work: no words, only sound. In both cases, I had to close my eyes so I could take it all in, and both performances moved me to tears.
What struck me in those moments of clarity was that I was moved, not by the manipulations of clever lyrics, but by the purity of sound and the mathematical truth of music. I could feel, through and through, the essence of the music.
In now recognizing music as truth, universal, predetermined, void of border, whether demographic or cultural, I began to see music in a much grander scale. Music is not a human invention-it is a Divine Design.
Physicists, mathematicians and the sort have been identifying the universality of tone and frequency for many years. Trees have a frequency to them. Geographic locations have their own tonal signatures. Current theory in the Wave Structure of Matter (WSM) is shedding more light on how matter vibrates, resonates and has wave to it, not unlike the airwaves that carried music to me in my younger years. The sun has been identified as emitting a low-frequency hum that changes with each violent explosion. But, this is nothing new. The Greeks spoke of the “music of the spheres” two thousand years ago. What is this universal orchestration that exists below the radar of human perception? I am beginning to see this great universe as nothing short of a deliberately designed musical masterpiece, with each planet an instrument, each star a voice, and for us humans, an opportunity to be swept up into a grander composition than we could ever imagine.
Of course, every orchestra needs a composer. Who else could compose and conduct such a masterpiece, an opus, but God the Creator? Interestingly, the Scriptures confirm His musical design throughout Creation:
“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was vibrating over the surface of the waters.” Gen 1:2
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3
“All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power; to make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.” Psalm 145:10-12
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding…Who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:7
Needless to say, I have a renewed passion for music, but at this point, it is all about how to join in to the worship the universe is offering to God in song. How do I commune with Him and listen for His directing: the Great Conductor, and play my part in His masterpiece?
I do not have this figured out, but I am relishing the adventure of being swept up with God in an unexpected way. Thank you to my parents for exposing me to wonderful music as a child. Thank you to the years I spent playing music in church. Thank you, heavenly Father, for teaching me how to worship. And thank you God for this love of music that is finding its place in my calling.
150 years ago, William Cullen Bryant penned the poem, “Song of the Stars.”
When the radiant morn of creation broke,
And the world in the smile of God awoke,
And the empty realms of darkness and death
Were moved through their depths by his mighty breath,
And orbs of beauty and spheres of flame
From the void abyss by myriads came,–
In the joy of youth as they darted away,
Through the widening wastes of space to play,
Their silver voices in chorus rung,
And this was the song the bright ones sung.
“Away, away, through the wide, wide sky,–
The fair blue fields that before us lie,–
Each sun, with the worlds that round him roll,
Each planet, poised on her turning pole;
With her isles of green, and her clouds of white,
And her waters that lie like fluid light.
“For the source of glory uncovers his face,
And the brightness o’erflows unbounded space;
And we drink, as we go, the luminous tides
In our ruddy air and our blooming sides:
Lo, yonder the living splendours play;
Away, on our joyous path, away!
“Look, look, through our glittering ranks afar,
In the infinite azure, star after star,
How they brighten and bloom as they swiftly pass!
How the verdure runs o’er each rolling mass!
And the path of the gentle winds is seen,
Where the small waves dance, and the young woods lean.
“And see, where the brighter day-beams pour,
How the rainbows hang in the sunny shower;
And the morn and eve, with their pomp of hues,
Shift o’er the bright planets and shed their dews;
And ‘twixt them both, o’er the teeming ground,
With her shadowy cone the night goes round!
“Away, away! in our blossoming bowers,
In the soft air wrapping these spheres of ours,
In the seas and fountains that shine with morn,
See, Love is brooding, and Life is born,
And breathing myriads are breaking from night,
To rejoice like us, in motion and light.
“Glide on in your beauty, ye youthful spheres,
To weave the dance that measures the years;
Glide on, in the glory and gladness sent,
To the farthest wall of the firmament,–
The boundless visible smile of Him,
To the veil of whose brow your lamps are dim.”