Music has magical properties.
It lifts my spirit when I'm feeling sad, it motivates me when I've lost vision and it gives me space to mourn when I'm still in the process of pain. Music doesn't judge me for how I respond. I'm welcome to come in whatever mess or level of togetherness I have and enjoy the music from the perspective that makes sense in that moment.
Music is a very "in the moment" experience. It can transform me to the past, help me appreciate the present and awaken a longing for the future. Like I said...magical.
The other day "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen came on. What a marvelous musical feat. Not my favorite genre, but who doesn't love this song?! It offers so much variety and is delightful to sing along with.
Oh yeah, except that part where he says, "Mama, just killed a man, put a gun up to his head, pulled the trigger now he's dead."
So there I was...my kids are in the car and I'm singing and mid-sentence I trail off, "Mama, just killed a..." Hmmm. Oops, didn't see that one coming. I had my high school brain on.
Snap! Back to adulthood. I began to feel terrible. Their minds just absorbed a murderous phrase. Yuck.
And then my husband took over, praise the Lord!! He started to talk to them about crime and consequence, depression and guilt, and how some crimes cannot be undone. He trained to THINK about songs at a young age before their "I'm just listening to the music" excuse surfaced.
Now I ask you, should I have let my children listen to this song about a murderous, callous man facing the consequences and difficulties inherent in that life? Or should I have murmured, "they don't understand; it doesn't matter?"
I remember when I was a kid, singing songs that I had no idea of the implications. Not everything needs to be turned into a lesson, but there are moments when this can model a powerful practice.
So as I sing a song in church or hear one on the radio that moves me I enjoy it, and begin to ask myself these questions:
1. What is it saying?
2. Do I understand it?
3. Does it remind me of God or something the Bible teaches?
4. Is it True?
What is it saying? & Do I understand it? It doesn't take too much effort from that point to understand the courtroom scene, but a quick google search for the meaning to "Bohemian Rhapsody" confirmed it all. It reminds me of the process that a rebellious heart takes when faced with sin.
He talks about how pointless life is, his guilt and shame. Then instead of repentance, he becomes defensive and finds excuses for his sin. He eventually rebels, attempting to blame others around him. In the end he circles back around to the existential view of life, "nothing really matters."
Is it True? The song points to real consequences and genuine emotional responses to sin. It accurately reflects the heart of someone who doesn't know the Lord. The man laments his consequences for a while but eventually adopts a hopeless philosophy. So it passes my internal test.
Next time I'll comb through a popular worship song with the same barometer. Because it's fun, listening to the radio with the kids, pointing out and discovering God in the world. But in church, the place where communal worship occurs, it can be easy to take the robe of discernment off at the door.
It's supposed to be a safe place. Yes, but we must continue to discern truth within the walls of the church because our hearts and minds are at stake.
What song do you love because of the music, but dislike the lyrics?