I used to sing in the car to myself, to my babies, to the sky. In our “before Ireland” days, I’d wake up with the sun to drive my husband to work. Then I’d sit in the parking lot on sweaty afternoons waiting for him to clock out with a hungry, fussy baby passing minutes in the backseat. Every day, that chubby boy and I would count those minutes—hours, really—in song.
The before-Ireland days were long ones, lending time to many, many songs. In those days, Sara Groves did my praying for me, Waterdeep my liturgy. My corporate worship consisted of my tears, a baby’s coos, and my Midwestern musical allies singing me towards patience, towards hope, towards obedience.
I was weary in those days.
Oh Lord, my heart / is not lifted up
Repatriation is not for the faint of heart. Our first term overseas left us hollow and sore, and we desperately longed to return on a swifter timetable than the one God would allow. His lovingly-laid out detour dropped us into a ragtag group of young people, a baby church communing amidst painted canvases and crumbling walls.
This type of worship (a small, acoustic family circle, really) was all new, and I breathed it in as if I was becoming new again, too. I joined their chorus as only a woman recently humbled can: swaying in the back with a baby on her hip, an alto’s cries gulped between chords.
Five years later, I realize that family circle lasted but a few short months in what would become an awfully extended exile, but all I remember – all that matters – is the atmosphere of peace, of joy, of discovering my own heart language hidden within a fellowship of stomping feet and raised hands.
God was singing back to me, too.
We praise your Son, Jesus / who makes all things new
Returning to the shores of our beautiful country of service, I feel no need to keep track of the tunes, the time, the beat. Ireland is home to some of the most famous musicians and musical acts of all time, so my harmonic antics really aren’t necessary. We’ve got Enya, for crying out loud.
And the church, oh she is filled with beautiful sounds: tin whistles and fiddles, lilting voices and shouts of joy. We are not in want of worship here; it’s buried in the land, hidden in the bogs. Ireland cries out with music. And yet, my own songs subside, the car now reserved for refereeing fights… and picking a few of my own.
Take this city / if it be your will
I’m tempted to betray the melodies of my homeland, the hymns of my youth. For I am a lucky one: worshipping in my mother tongue, knowing the words (if not the melodies) by heart. I know it’s a rare thing for those in our business. I see it in my friends who gather with us once a year for fellowship, blessing and restoration. They lift their arms to the sky, singing in English for the first time in months.
As we gather together, I hear in their voices a year’s worth of prayers held together with tape and glue, tattered through treacherous dangers, embedded – as we are often reminded – in spiritual battle. We let our worship do the praying for us. The words we’ve been missing for so long don’t dare hide the promises of Scripture, or the God who sees and loves sparrows and wildflowers as much as the hairs on our head.
A great High Priest / whose name is love
Truth be told, I am weary; the days of singing in the car ceased. Nothing is terribly wrong, but I don’t feel terribly right, either. Perhaps it is the long obedience in the same direction, the yearning for home, the way I am prone to wander. I feel myself ascending with the Psalmist, but we’ve yet to reach the summit. My feet are tricky on this ground.
So in these days, like the days and months and years that came before, let us sing. When our prayers cannot be expressed in mere words, let the music do the praying for us, let the Spirit intercede in Song.
The melodies may be foreign, but we know the truth by heart.
This is my anthem, this is my song / The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, He will be again / His loving compassion, it knows no end
All I have need of, His hand will provide / He’s always been faithful to me
Has there been a time in your life where you let music do the praying for you? What songs have been a refuge for your weary heart?
PS: The song lyrics listed above are, in order: Psalm 131, Waterdeep / Whole Again, The Flint Hill Fellowship / Yahweh, U2 / Before the Throne of God Above / He’s Always Been Faithful, Sara Groves. Also, here’s some music that keeps me praying, no matter the season.