Music means so many different things for so many different people: it is a form of entertainment, an art that some struggle to master, a labor of the love for many creators, a colorful diversion from the mundane activities of life, a relaxing agent that puts space between oneself and the world, etc. It has been all of these things and more for me throughout my life and what fascinates me the most is how music can be an extremely powerful medium for emotional expression; like pictures, music speaks without words, and the sounds of music tell stories that words themselves cannot convey.
Speaking personally, I have always had some reservation about putting my true thoughts and feelings into words. My truest self has always been best expressed by some outlet other than dialogue and whether it is singing it, playing it, or dancing to it, music has been that relieving, soothing, deep, soul-searching medium of expression that I crave.
As highly personal as this relationship with music is, it is shared by thousands upon thousands of people the world over. In fact, one of the great dichotomies of music is that a person can pour themselves into creating a song that has a personal meaning just for them while at the same time that very piece of music can draw hundreds of people together in unified enjoyment.
A good example of this phenomenon are the lives of famous country music artists Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn: I recently watched movies about each of their lives (Walk the Line and Coal Miner’s Daughter) and was struck by the fact that these remarkable musicians each had difficult childhoods/young adults lives and struggled with various problems in their adult lives (their marriages were difficult and their relationships with their celebrity statuses was many times dysfunctional at best). In the midst of the stress, the pain, the human brokenness, Cash and Lynn poured themselves into creating music that served as an outlet for their personal stories and this same music brought delight and (in the case of Cash’s performances for prison inmates, for instance) even healing to countless people all over the world. Music expressed emotion, told a story, and it brought all sorts of people together while still remaining a highly personal art form.
It’s just fascinating to me that music can come from the most unlikely sources (like the examples above) and can be the fruit of both misery and joy, perhaps both at the same time. Cash’s and Lynn’s stories both had plenty of heartache but their unique, individual creative expression of it birthed an enduring tribute to country music and the power of human emotion and expression. Their refuge in music provided an open door for millions to experience and ponder all kinds of different issues of life; through song, Cash’s and Lynn’s lives became a testament to the power of love and life no matter a person’s past or background and their personal stories became greater than themselves because of the fruit of their lives through creativity.
As a Christian, the power of music has an even deeper meaning: I believe God loves melody (David talks about praising God with instruments and song constantly throughout the Psalms) and can use it to accomplish His will and purposes in a person’s life. In fact, I have gained a lot of freedom and personal wholeness through both singing the songs that other Christian artists have produced and creating my own. Worship is what God intended music to be and so believers have an extraordinary opportunity to harness the power of the medium and use it for His glory. We just saw how different cultural figures created music that touched millions and certainly we are all familiar with the fact that music is a staple of our broken society at large. However, what happens when Christians take music back for God? Amazing things, folks, amazing things.