Photo Credit: Erika Reinsel
This was a night that almost didn’t happen. I had talked myself out of this so many times that ultimately I fell right back into it. I was anxious – about leaving the kids, about the logistical details of who needed to be where, when and how, anxious about the bedtimes, and the separation. Mark and I don’t get out often, and though we talk about how good it is (for everyone!) when we do, the plans don’t make themselves.
But there was this concert in the city, and Tobin is so faithful in insisting we have a life, and we have it with her. My mom is gracious in her hospitality, welcoming our gang of kids with all of the noise machines and special lovey guys that make bedtimes work. The plan was to take the train in to the city where Mark’s truck was already waiting for us, a lone vehicle in the lot where he parked it that morning for work. Without being tied to a train schedule we were free to respond to all the potential catastrophes my mind can hold, and we didn’t even have to fight the Friday night traffic. I took a deep breath; We hugged the children, and ripped the band-aid. We were off.
I am no musician. Far from it. My artistry is words; my attempts to make music are better left on the page. But music? Oh, I have a deep appreciation, an awe that leaves me breathless. Music is the language that has been swirling into my brain, deep into my soul, and out my tapping toes, for as long as I can remember. There was a time when I tried to make my fingers learn the guitar, and I was woefully disappointed that I couldn’t make them do the dance of stretching and strumming. I used to think that I would only ever be on the outside of this music thing because I couldn’t make it myself. Now, I’m thankful that I can’t. I don’t want to. I want to listen; I want to watch. I have found there is magic in the not-knowing. I don’t know the chords that are played. I don’t know what that type of scale is called. Sometimes, I’m not even sure of the instrument. But I’m certain of the beauty.
I got my date night jitters out on the train ride, and soon we were standing in line outside the venue, shivering against the chill of November coming off the concrete sidewalk. There were two opening acts, and we were comfortably hanging out in the balcony. By my watch we had made it past the bedtime hour without a call from my mom. We caught up on life between songs, and yawned our way into a second wind. The Head and the Heart didn’t take the stage until 10:30
Here’s what I can tell you: I held the hand of God that night.
I told you, I’m no musician. And I know that my words will only get me so far. Sometimes, the right words, the way to say something, can only be found in the music. But I’ll offer this: the band was on stage, and we were in this dark room, Mark, and Tobin, and Mike, and I, and the audience and the band. We were all in this together. And there are these songs, that run fast and deep and loud and roaring. And there is the beat of my heart, of your heart, of their hearts, and I’m pretty sure our hearts are all beating together, and it’s no longer inside my body but it’s outside, and I can feel it prickling my skin. My cheeks are wet, and I’m holding my breath long and hard, but somehow breathing as deeply and sharply as I ever have, all at the same time. Rivers and Roads, she belts out, rivers till I reach you, the words hang in the air. And God was there, holding my hand, holding all of our hands, in a long chain of breath and song.
This was as much of a holy moment as any I have experienced in church, where you might expect God to be. But God was here. He was here, I am certain of that. This was the kind of holy that made my body shiver, and I wanted to shout my loudest hallelujah, and whisper my quietest thanks.
And then it was over. The stage lights went dark, and the house lights came up. We walked back out into the brisk November air, awake and different, changed from the time we entered those doors. We can talk about it; we can write about it. We can listen to the album, and watch YouTube videos. We can sing in the car, loud and out of tune. But that moment – the one that was about rapture and beauty and community and loneliness and yearning and art all while God was holding my hand – that moment is gone.
The truth is that God doesn’t save himself for those church moments. God isn’t contained to the stain-glassed picture of perfection, but He shows himself to this broken world, in the broken places, over and over again, even if all it is is to make us feel: broken and alive and longing. And I think He wants us to see Him, to hear Him, to reach our hands out in hopes of grabbing hold of something. Oh, I felt Him alright.
I think that’s how it supposed to be. I think that if God only let us see Him in the holy places and not in the broken world then a lot fewer people would come to know Him, to know His story. Because not everyone is seeking God, and not everyone is coming to the church. But His story is bigger than that, His beauty stronger than that. It’s the beauty of broken places, art offered up in hope. It’s the holy moment in a dark auditorium that smells like sweat and beer.