I’m still a novice at Lent; this is just my 6th season out of 32 years of life. My first year I gave up sarcasm and exaggeration and learned an important (and humorous) lesson in growing into, rather than jumping into, a new spiritual practice. Last year, when I prepared for my forty day fast, I dabbled with the idea of giving up music. I first thought to give it up entirely, but then my body started twitching and my eyes began to sting and, in a gasping moment of reality when my tongue when numb, I realized that giving up music cold turkey might be a bit extreme.
Abstaining from music for four weeks would be a radically ascetic experiment for this melomane. (That’s French for “music lover” and said with the caressing accent it gives you a sense of my love affair with music.) Living without music for 960 hours, or 57,600 minutes, or 345,6000 seconds? That’s like the 4th of July without the block parties, fruit-flag desserts, crepe-papered bicycles and chest-thumping fireworks. Last year I wimped out and gave up added sugars, which was challenging, but nothing close to giving up my precious music.
2011 was a difficult year because of a sense of vocational stuntedness and a family loss. 2012 hasn’t yet loosened the grip its neighbor held on my heart. For me, listening to music and singing along is often as cathartic as sipping a cool cup of water in the scorching Phoenix heat or shattering a glass against the hard stones of a fireplace. But sometimes I abuse music. I abuse it, and myself, when I use music to tune out the voice of my inner life. I suspect that in the past year, music has been more of a muffle than a balm. So, as much as I love music, as much as it gives me joy and energy and a certain dancing-in-my-soul verve, I decided to set it aside for a time.
I don’t want to become a person who claims that God has abandoned me in hard times. Maybe I’m not hearing God’s voice because it’s hard to hear a whisper through a cotton ball. Maybe God is offering me sweet melodies of truth and consolation that would bind together the ragged linings of my soul but I’m not listening well. Maybe I’ve turned music into noise, a distraction, just an excuse not to courageously face the somewhat barren landscape of my life and follow my Savior Jesus as he ventured, alone, without supplies, into the desert. Maybe the key to hearing God in the desert is clearing away all the distraction and stepping into aloneness with God.
Conviction tells me it’s time to clean out my ears, so I’ve instituted a silent commute for Lent. For the two, thirty minute trips to and from work each day, there’s no top 40, no cds, no talk radio. There’s just the sound of my breathing, the rev of my car’s engine, the squeak of breaks and the hum of tires rubbing against the pavement. Yesterday at an intersection, the service truck next to me was blaring “Low Rider” and before I knew it I was bobbing my head in time and smiling at the driver. I miss the music that got me merrily home but in the silence I’ve discovered a jam of thoughts and prayers waiting for their right of way. In just two weeks, I’ve run into a lot of unanswered questions, discovered wounds that need healing, and prayed that God would grant me the senses to see, hear and feel hope for my future. I’ve realized how self-centered I am and found forgiveness. And it seems that with each turn of my tires I chant the name Sara – the one who left our family for other happiness. But mostly, I sit in silence and listen to the sounds of my commute, the beeps, rubbing, the rattles, which remind me that though I am sitting still, I am going somewhere.
This morning in the silence an old chorus popped into my head – “Thou O Lord, art a shield about me; you’re my glory; you’re the lifter of my head.” I believe those words are true, but I’m not able to feel their truth now. As I hummed the chorus throughout the day, I stumbled across a thought – maybe it’s not my song to sing; it’s God’s song for me. I the Lord, art a shield about you, I’m your glory, I’m the lifter of your head. Okay Lord, I’m listening. Thanks to the silence.