“Mom,” she asks. “Do you ever cry when you sing slow songs?”
She asks me the question while she waits for her blueberry PopTart to cool on the plate.
“Because sometimes, when I sing a really pretty song in music class, and the notes go higher and higher, I start to cry.”
I lean in close, meeting forehead-to-forehead with my nine-year-old girl:
I totally get what she’s saying. I can’t exactly explain it, but I know what she’s groping to describe. I know the way that a song can grip your heart by its throat, and dislodge some stubborn thing that has been stuck maybe a bit-too-long in a too-dark place. And it happens whether you’re nine or thirty-nine.
I also know the way that a song can climb the musical staff, and somewhere up high, the notes cling to the heavens, and you feel like you can touch something bigger than yourself.
Sometimes, the song knows more than you do.
And you know, it’s not always a “Christian” song. Sometimes it’s just … any old song. It’s that lullaby you sing over your baby, or that synthesized ’80s song that you sing with your husband as you zip down the interstate.
And you don’t know why, but you can barely get the words to move past the lump in your throat.
I’m no musical genius, but I know this: God knows what He can do to us with a good song. Maybe that’s why there’s this huge section of Scripture called the Psalms, full of a bunch of songs smack-dab in the middle of our Bibles. A song can feel like a crescendo rising up to meet the soul, a series of quarter-notes rubbing up against our deepest joys.
My daughter takes a bite of a PopTart, and I sing a little bit of “I Love To Tell The Story.” I tell her how every time they play that hymn in church, I start to cry. I don’t cry because I’m sad, but because I’m really, really happy.
She nods. She gets it.
She tells me that she stayed after music class one day to ask her teacher about this whole crying thing. The other fourth-graders had raced out for recess, but she stayed back. She wanted to know if it was natural to cry over a song. Her music teacher said that a song can elicit a strong emotional response in a person; a song can “let loose” something you never expect.
Sometimes, it seems, the unexpected soul-response comes gushing down your cheeks. And you know what? I want to sing along. Even if I weep right through the chorus.
This week my mind is on worship. I’m leading worship at a spiritual retreat this coming weekend. But here’s the deal. I’m not a singer. Really. I’m NOT. But I love a good song.
Friend, what’s a song that moves you?