I recently finished reading the Bible through the year (one month early!), and I decided that I wanted to try some Christian-living-type books before I dive into reading just scriptures again. One of my top choices happened to be a new release at my parent’s church library, so I decided to check it out. Crazy Love has been a slow and difficult read, to say the least. Not because the writing is shaky or the theology isn’t sound–simply because it challenges the reader to take an uncompromising look at their faith and make some heavy changes in the way they live life day-to-day. It’s not a book that you quickly read through, cover to cover. I’ve been taking it slowly, mulling over each chapter and really trying to grasp the ideas that the writer puts out there.
The first chapter of the book focuses entirely on just marveling at how awesome God is–the idea behind it being that if we could truly grasp the enormity of the God that we serve, we would never be able to get off our knees and stop worshiping him. I struggled with this chapter. It’s not that I don’t know in my head that God is awesome, but the author was telling me to stop and really feel it and believe it and marvel at it, and I was having trouble marveling. I made excuses for myself–I figured it was probably because I’ve been spending so much time milling around my parents house, watching daytime gameshows and taking naps in the afternoon. I haven’t been out there, feeding the hungry and praying for the sick and climbing mountaintops and doing all of those things that make people stop and marvel, you know?
I felt guilty that I couldn’t marvel. I tried to squeeze my eyes shut really tight, and I concentrated really hard, and I still had nothing. The author, Francis Chan, uploaded YouTube videos to accompany his book–one of them was one of those picture slideshows deomonstrating how small the earth is in comparison to the rest of the universe. I looked at the pictures of the planets and the galaxies, and I was still having trouble really marveling at God. I figured something must really be wrong with me. My heart must be enclosed in a thick layer of ice to keep me from feeling any emotion towards my all-powerful creator.
Then this morning we went to church, and without even trying, I found myself marveling at God. How did that happen? All it took was a song:
“Forever Reign” by Hillsong
You are good You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love You are love
On display for all to see
You are light You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope You are hope
You have covered all my sin
You are peace You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life You are life
In You death has lost it’s sting
Oh I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign
If you listen to any Christian radio, you’ve probably heard this song before. And maybe sitting at your computer and reading through the lyrics does nothing to make you marvel–that’s okay! What really did it for me was hearing the music. These are pretty simple Biblical truths that are being conveyed…but when you deliver it with a live orchestra, and a massive choir singing these words in a four-part harmony, and the music is so near and so loud that it surrounds you and echoes off of every wall and even the floor beneath your feet–you almost can’t help but have an emotional response. You can’t help but remember that the glorious sounds filling the church sanctuary are only a faint din compared to the power and magnitude of heavenly hosts surrounding the throne of God and singing praises to him right this very minute. Oh yes–I was full-on marveling at the awesome God that we serve.
But I wondered later, why did it take music to make me marvel? How is it that I can read words on a page and feel nothing, but hear those same exact words put to a melody, and I’m suddenly crying at the power of the truth of those words? Why do the worship songs we sing at church seem to tug at my heartstrings every time?
I did a little “research” at BibleGateway.com, and I searched for the word “sing.” I got 158 results on that one word! Granted, some of them were instances of the word “single”, but at least 140 or so of them were for actual singing. So apparently, music has always been a pretty integral part of our faith. And one of my favorite verses happened to pop up, which started me marveling all over again:
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
We spend a lot of time in church rejoicing over God with singing, but can you imagine the reverse? God rejoicing over us with singing? Can you imagine what that must sound like? All of the most talented singers who have ever walked the face of the earth were given their talent by HIM. He’s the one who taught them how to sing. I bet if I ever got the chance to hear him sing, I would never be able to pick myself up off the ground again.
This verse got me thinking about C.S. Lewis’s book The Magician’s Nephew, a fictional take on the creation story, using Aslan and Narnia to symbolize God and the Earth. The most interesting difference between this creation story and the real one is that in Lewis’s version, Aslan sings creation into being rather than speaking it. And as he creates different elements of Narnia, his newly made creation actually joins in the song. It’s a beautiful story, and it’s really best for you to read a few passages for yourself to get the idea:
A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory [the young boy witnessing this creation] found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. It was hardly a tune. But it was beyond comparison, the most beautiful sound he had ever heard…
Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale: cold, tingling, silvery voices. The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening. One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world. There were no clouds. The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.
This is a really lovely idea that Lewis has presented here, but is it based on any kind of scripture? Well…as a matter of fact, my search for the word “sing” brought up several scriptures having to do with creation itself singing. Such as:
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
and Isaiah 44:22-23
“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.
Jesus says in Luke 19:40 that if we refuse to worship God, the very rocks will cry out. So who is to say that when God created the earth, during those first few days before man was created and able to praise him, the rocks in the desert and the trees in the forest and the stars in the sky and the fish in the sea didn’t all cry out, praising their amazing creator?
Thinking about the fact that God actually sings, and thinking about how creation will cry out to praise God if we don’t because the truth is just too good to go unacknowledged, and the fact that scripture calls believers to sing praises to God about 140 times in the Bible, and the fact that God has created us to respond to music unlike any other medium….well, it’s all just seeming pretty marvelous.
And I feel like I’ll be marveling over it for a long time.