Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time in the beautiful country of Colombia. We had many fun moments and a few hard ones too, but through it all one theme emerged loudest for me. I think it was illustrated best for me after a night ministering to the homeless community with a local church. Set-up for the evening was pure chaos, as the Colombian way is closer to “wing it” than “plan it,” as we Americans often prefer. Throw in a language barrier and you’ve got a few messes to sort.
As our team reflected later that night, we all seemed to notice different ways in which the Lord had positioned, assigned, and equipped various people in various situations to move in the ways he wanted to move that evening. Some spoke, some mingled in the crowd, some worked, some prayed over the chaos. And though many expressed afterward feelings of inadequacy or insufficiency in the moment, in hindsight we were all able to clearly see that the Lord had used each in the manner in which he saw fit. Just because some were upstairs praying did not mean they were any less connected to the ministry happening at tables downstairs.
In this time of reflection, God painted for me the picture of harmonies in music. Without the melody of a song, harmonies can sound odd, fractured, or off, but when blended with a melody, their purpose and beauty is evident if one’s willing to listen a bit closer. Because not everyone notices the harmonies in a song immediately, especially if they aren’t tuned in to listen for them or lack understanding of how music works. When done well, harmonies blend so perfectly that nothing sticks out, but rather they highlight the melody.
So it is both in our own lives and with the family of Christ. When we remember that the gospel is our melody, we can allow the Spirit to harmonize our lives alongside it. Our contribution and assignments are not the central part of the song, and on our own we would be without direction or purpose, and indeed sound a bit odd. If we don’t understand the purpose of harmonies, we might feel as though our part is insignificant or unnoticed, but when we understand the job of harmonizing, we will realize that being noticed for our part was never what we were designed for. When we submit to the part of the song we’ve been asked to play, instead of everyone trying to take the lead, we actually allow the Lord to create more beautiful music than we could ever hope to make on our own.
I see this in our individual lives, as we consider how he brings all the varied elements of our experiences, personalities, and giftings into one unique song harmonized around the power of the gospel in our own lives.
I see this in the church, when he brings a crowd of messy people together and harmonizes all their gifts, backgrounds, and personalities to accomplish his mission his way.
And I love the opportunity to see this same harmonizing happen during international mission trips. One evening we had the opportunity to attend the church service of the local church we were partnering with. I’ve gotten to attend local churches in Mexico in this same kind of situation as well, and my favorite part is always worship. There is something so incredible about singing the same worship songs you sing in English at church at home, now halfway around the world, in a different language, with people of an entirely different cultural background than you. Though the words sound a bit different, the melody is the same, and we can all worship the same God with one heart. One of our group members commented later that night how astounding it is to think that our Father in Heaven doesn’t hear the jumble of languages we do in these situations – He hears it all in perfect harmony.
On the last night of the trip this idea was further cemented in my mind as we sang worship songs and hymns with our translators on the bus on our way back to the hotel. It was a holy moment, despite the imperfections of our worship. We made makeshift drums on the windows, sometimes we got off key, and we forgot how the verses went, but they sang in Spanish and we sang in English and somehow, when you share a melody and you’re singing to a God who isn’t bound by any language, none of those other things really matter at all.
I wrote this piece the day after we got back as I reflected in this idea of harmonies, and I pray it leads you to consider all the harmonies the Spirit has woven in your own life around the gospel of Christ, our true and pure melody.
These notes call me so clearly,
Your truth, our pure melody
Beats, and it leads me –
It’s your Word splashing over me,
A downpour of healing, of guiding, of teaching.
And this melody I’ve been hearing
Brings me to kneeling –
I’m finally listening
To the song you’ve always
Been singing over me.
And once I tuned in to listen,
Turned down all the static,
The music, it’s building,
From a hum to a whistling,
From a whisper to a shouting
In my ears, it’s so loud,
But I no longer try to drown it all out
Because now I’m hungry to hear about
The notes that make up
And the closer I listen,
The richer the music;
So many notes I was missing
Now come through the sweetest.
I hear your song at its fullest,
When I pay attention and don’t miss
I see You harmonize in my life
When I look back in hindsight
At time after time
You’ve redeemed the old lies:
Like that’s pointless, you’re worthless,
Stupid choices and time wasted,
I count mistakes or paths taken,
Broken people, all these failures.
But as broken glass becomes mosaic,
So your grace takes and shapes these
Odd notes and misfittings
And weaves them into poetry
Around a steady heartbeating
Of the Prince who brings to me
Peace, my new rhythm,
And from my mess makes
And as the sounds of our cracking
Start to sound less like us snapping
And more like the hum of the mending,
Of finding the harmonies,
These people around me
Are less likely to harm me
And more likely to join with me
In the singing.
As broken glass hits broken pieces,
And instead of cutting,
Chimes break in,
Our sharp edges are softened,
Broken heart on shattered pieces,
It’s just Your chance to make music,
And what we thought would surely hurt us,
Coming face to face with another’s brokenness,
Turns into beautiful harmony.
Maybe it’s a new chord,
Something we never dreamed of before,
Not by rote or recorded,
But rather orchestrated
By the One who harmonizes his children,
Directs and arranges his people
From lonely notes into
Ballads, anthems, and dance-party praises.
And though the melody’s unchanging,
These harmonies move freely,
They’re ducking and weaving,
Some strongly, others sweetly.
They mix and they mingle,
Across continents and through cultures –
One song, a million stories,
One Father, glory to glory,
And the Spirit, he brings them
Together so perfectly,
Nothing late, nothing early,
In time and on pitch,
Not a single note missed,
And our Father in Heaven,
Who’s above any language or style,
Listens and smiles,
Because all his ears are hearing
Is his diverse creation
Roaring forth his praises
In perfect harmony.