active listening: “shelter” by jars of clay.

A few of my blogger friends write about the songs that influence their lives on a daily basis, so I thought I’d give it a try today because this song has been the fragile thread holding me together for the better part of two weeks. I’ve written about this song before, but it tends to be my go-to tune to pour into my brain whenever I come into times of self-doubt, loneliness, and fear. I’ve been violently thrust into the throes of these emotions lately, and so I’ve been trying to actively seek refuge in art to effectively surf these unrelenting waves of pain.

Monday, I believe, I pulled this song up on my iPhone, stuck my earbuds in, and pressed the “repeat” button and let myself fall into it.

When I got into my car, I plugged my phone into the auxiliary port and turned the volume all the way up and actually worshiped. Like, for really real worshiped. In my car. With my eyes closed (only at stop lights, of course) and hands raised.

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It’s now Thursday, and I’m still here in this space, running down my phone battery in the name of spiritual health.

The melody is simple, but I wouldn’t call it catchy. It’s not a song that, in my opinion, is easily “stuck” in your head. I think you have to intentionally put it there (as opposed to the likes of “Call Me Maybe”, for example) and I’ve been trying to do just that. The words are small, uncomplicated, and unobtrusive, but extremely powerful in times of defeat.

To all who are looking down / holding on to hearts still wounding
For those who have yet to find it / the places near where love is moving
Cast off the robes you’re wearing / set aside the names that you’ve been given
May this place of rest / in the fold of your journey / bind you to hope / we will never walk alone
In the shelter of each other / we will live / we will live
And Your arms are all around us…

God has given us each other / and we will never walk alone

Whenever I discover a really great record, I listen to it to death. I remember when Plans by Death Cab for Cutie came out, I put the disc (what is this “disc” I speak of?) in my dashboard CD player and listened to it whenever I drove for the better part of eight months. The boy I was in love with at the time found this irritating.

“You always listen to the same songs,” he lamented. “You’re so boring.”

Maybe he was right. Maybe I’m boring. But I’d like to think that, as a writer and a musician, I happen to understand the power of words and music and that I intentionally expose myself — albeit repeatedly — to the good stuff because good art has the ability to, if you let it, seep deep within your DNA. To become a part of you for the rest of your life. There are still pieces of Plans, for example, that, whenever I hear them, bring me back to that time when I was “boring”. With the opening riff of “Soul Meets Body” I can still feel the hot, sticky summer air flooding my Mazda 626 and I can still smell the mold in my tiny student apartment. I can remember what it felt like to know that my soul and my body were, in fact, different things and I can remember being in love and not exactly knowing why.

By listening to the simple, repetitive, beautiful words and music of “Shelter”, I can feel hugs from my husband and scruffy, hasn’t-shaved-in-a-few-days forehead kisses. I can see encouraging text messages from my pastor. I can feel a smile creep across my face at the sight of any one of my amazing friends. I can feel the warmth of God’s embrace. I can actually feel grace. I can feel this grace I read about and know that it is real.

Our tears aren’t ours alone / let them fall into the hands that hold us.

Let them! Let them! 

And Your arms are all around us / and we will never walk alone.

The last words of the song are “never walk alone”, not preceded by the “and we will” part.

To someone who is listening to that song for the first time, it may seem that it is one last mention of the very repetitive refrain. But to someone like me, who has listened to the song so many times that it is almost white noise  – someone “boring”, I guess — I see it as an intentional call to action by the lyricist.

Never walk alone.

Yes, God gives us a shelter. He gives us community in which to do life. But it is up to you to seek it out, to intentionally grab people in your life and boldly ask them to walk alongside you. Even when it is hard. Even when you are hard to love, you have GOT to let yourself be loved because, damnit, that’s what this grace thing is all about.

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1 Comment

Filed under faith, God, gushes, life, psychology, the media, transformation

One response to “active listening: “shelter” by jars of clay.

  1. Barbie

    So true! Love this post. I am a music junkie for this very reason.. the lyrics – the really good ones – speak to my soul. When I find an artist (like, Pink, for example) who “plays my soul” in their songs, I can’t help but listen to those songs over and over. And when I feel I am in need of God’s grace, I intentionally choose songs (like this one by Jars of Clay which I’m about to download – thank you) that remind me I am not alone.

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