In the best of times and in the worst of times, I return to Christian music to remind me that the finality of all things is in God. (This will come as a surprise perhaps to quite a few who think they know me, and have labeled me -- what was that? -- an "unhappy lost sheep.")
Music such as this is perfect during meditative afternoons, especially weekends, when things slow to a crawl, and the quiet makes you turn inward, towards everything that lay in silent bursting in your heart.
Like King Saul of the Old Testament, I know that the perfect cure for the vexed soul is time spent immersed in song and careful, whispered prayers. He had the young David play the harp for him, and from the Bible we read: "Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him" (1 Samuel 16:23).
My own personal David is Sandi Patti, she of the golden voice and a sometime tattered life that belies much of what I find hypocritical in fundamentalism. (That calls for a totally separate post -- but let it be said that this is part of my many reasons why I don't go to church anymore. It is not because I have stopped being Christian. Far from it. It is simply because when you come to realize that you're in a pen with wolves dressed as sheep, you'd rather really pursue God in beautiful solitude.)
When the vexing days descend, it is through Sandi Patti's music that I find entrance to divine comfort. She has sang so many Christian standards, it is impossible to find one that describes everything about her music.
But I've always loved "The Stage is Bare" from The Finest Moments, and I finally realized that it may be because it captures, so perfectly, the way I live my faith. She sings:
The stage is bare, The crowds are gone, The love we shared still lingers on. We sang and played, and we laughed and cried, And in our tumbling way we tried To say what only hearts can know. And all too soon we had to go. But now, here in this darkened room, Just empty seats, There’s just me and you.
It was so easy to call you Lord When a thousand voices sang your praise. But there’s no one to hear me now, So hear me now, be near me now.
The stage is bare, The crowds are gone. Lord, now's the time I need Your song To give me joy and certainty When no one else is watching me. I need you more than words can say, Tomorrow’s such a daily day. And I so need to feel you then, Holding my hand, Please hold me then.
I need you, Lord.
I like that. I like that honesty. I like how it burns into me the beauty of talking to God in solitude. Because it is so easy to proclaim God in the full limelight -- in church worship, in prayer rallies and Bible study sessions, in text messages, in Facebook, in blogs, in whatever platform -- to convince everybody else of the righteousness we hold ourselves in. And I see that a lot, especially from people who only use His name to cover up festering lies, who find strange comfort in public holiness.
Ultimately it is in solitude -- with only you and your God -- that one can recognize the truthfulness of your bond with the divine.