Each morning I (try to) read the daily Oswald Chambers devotion, which is a classic Christian devotion book and is also found online (utmost.org). This year my BHH (better half of my heart) and I both decided to (try to) read through the Bible in a year, by using the reading plan found at the bottom of the utmost.org daily devotion. Having it online and laid out so concisely makes it easier to (try to) stay devoted.
In accordance to that plan, I’ve been reading through The Book of Psalms since July 11th. And today, again, September 3rd, there were more: Psalm 140-142. I knew that psalms had to do with singing/songs/worship. But I hadn’t known how long it would take to read through The Book of Psalms on a reading plan, or how doing so might affect me. I am starting to understand how big of a role music plays in our relationship with God, and in healing the brokenness of that relationship.
If you have been following along, here, you will see that I reference songs often. I even wrote one. Well, it was like a song, anyway. I think reading Psalms each morning has had a lot to do with this focus.
My BHH is a Country Music fan. The old school stuff. Not necessarily the newer artists (although he finds some he likes there too). George Jones. Johnny Cash. Kris Kristofferson. When we first met I was leery of his taste in music. My peer group at the time liked 80’s rock music. Skid Row. White Snake. Def Leppard.
Still stuck in an abusive home at the time; I didn’t know how to have my own likes and dislikes. I liked what my friends liked, thinking that would make them like me. After quickly falling in love, I switched loyalties and started to like the style of music my BHH (boyfriend at the time) liked.
Things changed as I aged. I started deciding on some things for myself. Like music. Hairstyles. Clothing choices. And how I wanted to worship God.
Then I got sick from PTSD and things changed further. Crawling back out of that hole was nearly impossible. Being told by therapists that I was choosing to feel anxious ticked me off further. Who would CHOOSE this? When I am flared, in fight or flight, I do not feel like I have those (choices). It feels like everything is just happening on its own and like my life is completely out of my own control.
“You are choosing to feel shame.”
“You are choosing to get angry.”
“You are choosing not to trust your husband.”
These were things I heard in therapy. I wanted to scream back, “Well where was my choice when I was molested by so many family members?”
But I also wanted to be able to go to the grocery store by myself again; without sitting in the car beforehand in a panic.
And so I listened to my therapists and started changing the way I was thinking. What choice did I have at that point? Not many.
In time I saw the truth in what they were saying. I started to listen, and put it into action. My mind was filled with a back and forth between my therapists voice: You are choosing to feel shame. You are choosing to get angry. That was compounded by the melancholy twain of George Jones lamenting, “I’m living and dying with the choices I made.” (My BHH loves the George Jones song, choices, and so that song has played on repeat in my head during my recovery.)
Sigh. OK. I get it. I make my own choices. But that’s scary, as I was never allowed that as a child; when most people learn how to do that for themselves in the safety of a loving environment. And I’m still mad about what happened to me.
Then things started to click. And change.
I ‘got’ why I had been drawn to certain songs in my years of outright denial of past abuse. They spoke to my inner angst.
The song Amen by Kid Rock was one that I used to listen to over and over; volume on high. That was years before I ‘owned’ that I was a victim of clergy sexual abuse. The lines ‘wolves in sheep clothes pastors’ and ‘I’m scared to send my children to church‘ sent oxygen to the fire, which needed to rage, inside of me. I kept trying to put that fire out and do the expected things with my life.
But the buried truth was so strong and it needed air so badly that it was music which snuck behind all my defenses and fed it.
Now I don’t feel as much connection to the song Amen by Kid Rock. Because he uses God’s name in vain. At the time, it felt good to let myself vicariously blast out anger by using God’s name too. It doesn’t anymore. It’s the opposite for me these days. Other songs still mean a lot to me though.
Kris Kristofferson put out an album a few years back that I ended up outright stealing from my BHH’s stack of beloved cd’s. I would spend hours listening to the song Sister Sinead. The song is in reference to the infamous moment when Sinead O’Connor ripped up the picture of the pope (on live TV).
“…She told them her truth just as hard as she could..her message profoundly was misunderstood…and humans responded all over the world, condemning that bald-headed, brave little girl.”
“Maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t. But so was Picasso and so were the saints.”
I related to that song on such a deep level. Hearing Sinead O’Connor share recently about her own childhood abuse breaks my heart and I pray that she is finding healing for her own past traumas.
After I opened up about being a victim of sexual abuse (and that one abuser was ordained church clergy), I understood why I had always connected with the Sister Sinead song. The song honors the rage of an artist. An artist who was brave enough to stand on a stage and speak out against sexual abuse of children; in a church setting. Long before the big movements have made such things a bit easier.
Just like you can flip the Bible open and will likely land on a psalm (song)…if you flipped open my life, you would see that music and words and lyrics, of many stripes and styles, is also right there in the middle of my journey… of making choices; and choosing truth.
**In case the BHH reads this one: I can’t write a post mentioning Old School Country Music without a shout out to The Hag (Merle Haggard–RIP).