370: Caught Between a Song and a Hard Place
I don’t know about you, but I can’t listen to some songs in my iTunes without my mind tagging them to a specific moment or season of my life.
“You Are My Sunshine” takes me back to my grandpa singing it from the stage at the fair and then again from the sand at my wedding. Joe Diffie’s “Pickup Man” always evokes replays of Friday afternoons in 1995 at Queenstown Harbor Golf Links, when I cranked it from my dad’s Nissan king cab pickup while in the exiting caravan of my coworkers.
I remember “Lord, Move or Move Me” by FFH on constant repeat in 2002, as I saw forty-some straight résumés go unaccepted, while I wanted to move back to the East Coast. I can’t hear Chris Tomlin’s “How Great Is Our God” without thinking about the night I wept as I sang that—a time when those lyrics comprised what an old Hebrew king dubbed “a sacrifice of praise.”
The past few weeks have burned another one into my hard drive, but it’s been years in the making.
Back in 2013, my wife and I incurred more than $70,000 in surprise bills. To exacerbate the issue, the following year, my business revenue dropped more than $20,000. Thankfully, the years following have seen my work rebound. We cut back on vacation spending, relying heavily on credit card points. We didn’t upgrade my 2005 car or her 2006 SUV. I stopped contributing to my retirement accounts. To date, those efforts have knocked out all but $27,000 of those red numbers.
Several months ago, Crystal and I talked about my spiritual journey over the past few years. A lot has changed around me and maybe even in me, but I’ve struggled to see anything significant that I’ve surrendered to Jesus.
Fast forward to last month. The elders of my church asked me to pray for five weeks about a very big life decision. Both options on the table would cost me something, but one stood to have a financial price tag. A big one: $20,000.
Twenty more thousand dollars. With that new commitment, it would be much longer before I could buy that pickup or SUV. Fewer vacations, cheaper trips, a bucket list with items not getting crossed off. The motivations for those hard days in the office wouldn’t be grand adventures but less weight on my shoulders.
In tears Thursday, I told my church’s leadership that I would follow the Scripture passage in question and surrender to its difficult reality. For the time being, I didn’t have to wonder if I’d followed Jesus, but that surety came with acute pangs of loss and a sense of postponed hope. I knew I had chosen rightness; but it sucked.
Over the past five weeks, I’ve walked often on mountain trails, listening to faith-based music. Multiple songs have spoken into my wrestling match, but none have convicted me like these lines from “So Will I” by Hillsong UNITED.
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I don’t know what challenge you’re facing, what God is asking you to relinquish, what painful reality you know you need to accept. I don’t know what style of music reaches your heart or touches your soul. But I hope you find a mile marker song, an undeniable moment, a portion of Scripture to guide your next step.
And I hope you find the courage to lean into it.
It’s worth it—at least that’s what I tell myself. I’m thankful that I’ll always have a song that reminds me of that truth.
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