I visited a friend’s congregation recently and heard a message that has stayed on my mind. It was part of a sermon series called “God and my iPod” and the pastor was talking about how sometimes a song will get stuck in one’s mind. He suggested that maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something through that song, even if it’s secular music that has no mention of God or faith or anything spiritual. Or maybe the song is speaking to something in you that you haven’t yet realized—a longing or fear or hope that is buried deep in your heart.
The sermon really made me reflect. Like many in my generation, I love music, especially rock and roll. I thought about the handful of songs on my iPod that I can listen to again and again. I thought about how sometimes as soon as a particular song is over, I want to hear it again. When I was a kid, I had a junky turntable record player and my brother and I listened to the same albums (remember those?) over and over… I can still make him laugh by calling him on the phone and singing the first few lyrics of “These Boots Are Made for Walking” or the “Ballad of the Green Beret.” Music was a bond and a source of discovery.
So now as I listen to my favorite playlists, I’m trying to be aware of why those songs have such appeal to me, of how God might be trying to reach me through them. I’m also listening with new ears—is there something in this song that expresses some deeper thought or desire or yearning in my heart? If I had to select a 10-song soundtrack for my life, what would it include?
I feel the same affection for certain hymns. As soon as I hear the opening notes, my heart feels like it’s swelling up and I can’t wait to begin to sing. Now that we’re in Lent, I know that I’ll hear hymns that I’ve been missing during the other less somber church seasons. I love Lenten hymns like “O Sacred Head Surrounded” and “Forty Days and Forty Nights.”
What about you? Do you have songs that you love to hear over and over? Are there pieces of music that draw you closer to something transcendent? How do you use music to strengthen your spiritual life?
The music-loving Kate Elliott is editor of Gathermagazine.