Saturday, January 16, 2010

Singing from the Empty Place

I’m thinking about singing. No surprise there… I’m always thinking about singing. There is, though, one particular thought that keeps running through my mind. Empty places. I doubt the connection makes any sense to anyone, so I’ll explain. Sometime during my first semester of “college-level voice lessons” (insert voice tinged with sarcastic superiority here) my teacher told me that “we sing from our wounds.” Sounds really fun, right? I suppose it adds a certain depth to a singer’s art. Our experiences, particularly our painful ones, give substance to our songs. It’s what draws an audience in. You know, that moment when a singer sends chills down your spine. All that said, for the better part of a semester, I have been a rather frustrated voice student. You see, every time I made a really great sound (or even a half-way decent one) I was either on the verge of tears or would break down completely. This was torturous for me because I hate tears. I am just not a fan of crying. I don’t know why. Perhaps I feel like tears are manifestations of the weakness I try to hide (a weakness that comes from nothing else but the fact that I am human, something that I am pretty sure I have in common with about six billion other people). Perhaps I just think I look terribly unattractive when I cry (though I don’t know anyone who thinks they do look attractive when they cry…). In this case though, I think the real reason is that I couldn’t find the reason, and that drove me crazy. I mean, sure I understood about singing from the wounds and the pain that would result, but what wounds was I singing from? It just made no sense to me. So I decided to spend a little time searching.

But, surprisingly, I didn’t find wounds. I found, quite simply, empty places within my soul. Oh yes, it does sound deep and profound, doesn’t it? It’s not really. We all have them. Sort of like we all have sinuses. They’re just there. What are these empty places? Many would call them unfulfilled longings. I believe they are what Ecclesiastes would call “eternity on the hearts of men.” That yearning that God placed in us. That unavoidable feeling that we were made for something greater, for something lasting, not like the fleeting moments of the lives we live. Whether we realize it or not, the empty places are those parts of us that remind us that we were made for eternity and an eternal God. To be completely honest, we live, or at least I live most of my life unaware that these places even exist. And that’s an easy way to live. I feel no ache of longings unfulfilled. But then I start to sing, and something happens. In the same way my sound resonates in the openness of a recital hall, something about God’s love, His very Presence, resonates within every one of my empty places. As melodies ascend, I come face to face with my God. I catch a glimpse of eternity, and I long for more. I realize what I’m missing here. And that stirs me and brings a tear to my eye. All because I must face the fact that I live in a fallen world and I am a fallen being and, this side of Heaven, I will always be limited by that. The empty places that are filled for that moment will be empty again.

And so I am left with a choice. I can run from the empty places and continue living a safe life unaware of their existence. Or I can be brave, take a flying leap off of a cliff, and sing from the empty places. I can embrace the bittersweet taste of eternity like the richness of some luscious dark chocolate. Truly, the tears will soon dissolve as the utter joy of the fullness of God’s resonance overpowers the ache that might go along with it.

Singer or not, we all face this choice. What will we do with the empty places?

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