I think that somewhere between Hootie and the Blowfish and Justin Bieber I may have missed a turn. Since I began carrying around my own car keys, cassette tapes have faded into distant memory, and people are using iPods or satellite radio, and I am still listening to regular radio stations while I am in the car.
I am not devoted to one particular station; rather, I simply move from station to station without discretion. There is certainly more searching involved than if I were listening to an old, trustworthy mixed tape or a prepared, downloaded playlist from the computer. In this search for the right song, though, there are gaps of silence that never get filled, but there are also songs that make me stop and lean in a little closer to hear them.
It usually happens when I am driving through a relatively small town, where there are only a few radio stations. I will be driving along, skipping back-and-forth between the sound of a loud, fiery preacher and an easy listening station when the radio picks up a rather distant signal, and it plays a song that is not quite clear. The song is in the background with white noise is in the foreground, but through that distorted, unclear noise, I can hear a favorite song from the past.
I cannot hear the song perfectly, so I find myself leaning in closer and closer, trying to hear the words, so I can sing along. As I lean in closer, I still hear the white noise surrounding the music, trying to smother its rhythm and muffle its melody. However, even though I cannot hear the music plainly, I would rather hear that song through the white noise than any alternative.
When the noise around us is loud due to quiet despair, latent fears, denied guilt, or disappointed hopes, the sound of the grace of God may be playing softly in the background, but admittedly, it is hard to hear. When our ears capture traces of it, we lean in closer and closer. Certainly there is a cacophony of other noise around us that is easier to hear, but there is no other sound that compares to the grace of God.
There are occasions when the music of God's love is heard without static or distortion. We do not have to lean in to hear the music when that happens, but on other occasions, we have to lean in a little closer to hear the song playing in the background. It does not mean that the song is any less beautiful, or it is not captivating. It does not mean that its melody will not lift our spirits, comfort our hearts, or free the captives. It just means that there is more searching and listening involved.
It seems that the static is the loudest when our love is intertwined with the love of God. When our love for those around us, whether it is a life-long friend or the stranger in our midst, joins with God's love, it leads us not only to listen for the music of the grace of God for ourselves, but also for others, and we acutely feel the pain of the white noise. Whenever a loved one is trapped by unavoidable circumstances, unending pain, or unchanging sadness, it seems that all we hear is static. When prejudice holds people down or ambition holds people back, when thin agendas steer people off course or fear prevents thoughtful reflection, the noise can sound so loud, as we hope for the music of God to capture our ears.
When our ability to fix the problem is limited, but our love is not, the white noise is unmistakably loud, and we must find a way forward without succumbing to the noise. In those instances, we can sing ourselves. We can sing the melody of God's grace, so that it can be heard amidst the static. We listen so that we can sing. Even when distorted by the surrounding noise, it is still the sound of the grace of God that renews and restores.
Despite the static, we lean in closer and closer to hear the song because it is the sound that propels us forward. It is the sound of hope, as we are willing to carry the burden of a friend or of a stranger. It is the sound of walking alongside one another, reminding us that God is always there as well. The white noise will often be heard, but the sound of the grace of God endures. Lean in a little bit closer, listen, and sing along.