Like many of the psalmists, music is my heart’s language. Nothing makes me feel more fully at home than standing around my mom’s piano with our family, spending hours singing gospel hymns that have been passed down to us over generations. My grandfather was a gospel quartet singer who taught in shape note schools. I could barely walk before I was standing in a church, singing songs of praise with my two sisters and my mom. Music is as much a part of me as my own name.
Over time, my musical experiences grew and my language of praise expanded. As a chorister, I’ve never sung Handel’s “Messiah” without feeling goose bumps rise during the height of the “Hallelujah” chorus. Nothing quiets my soul in seasons of grief quite like “The Lord is My Shepherd” from John Rutter’s “Requiem.” I’ve often fought back tears while trying to sing through Gilbert Martin’s anthem arrangement of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” I’ve wept as I listened to a children’s choir sing “This Little Light of Mine.” I’ve joyfully danced and clapped my way through the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s rendering of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” And I’ve sat in stunned silence at the quiet end of Mahler’s inspired Symphony No. 9. Music has a transcendent quality that has been present at least since Scripture began.
Perhaps music is so fulfilling because many of us find it the most accessible gift we have that feels beautiful enough to offer God. When words and actions fail, music speaks. Knowing this truth inspires the psalmist to praise God both morning and night. Music is a gift befitting God who continues to inspire us to make music. For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy (v. 4).
What song of praise lives in your heart and mind today?
“My life goes on in endless song above earth’s lamentation. I hear the real, though far off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging; since love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?” —Robert Wadsworth Lowry