This Post's Gonna Get Stuck Inside Your Head
This song's gonna get stuck inside your head
'Cause it's so catchy, catchy
It's such a catchy song
Gonna make you happy, happy
Don't try to fight it, sing along...
--excerpt from Catchy Song, by Dillon Francis. with T-Pain & Lay Lay
Click here to hear the full song
This post is upside down in some ways. It's about something that made me remember a particular song, for instance, instead of being a reflection on something I heard in a song. And it's about shedding some of my grown-up tendency to analyze everything so that I can revel in a little wonder...
I'm presently participating in an online retreat based on the book Soul of a Pilgrim by Christine Valters Paintner. One of the scripture passages we've considered was the story in Exodus of Moses leading the Israelites out of captivity with the Egyptian army in hot pursuit.
The Bible doesn't say what the Israelites experienced in that exact moment when the Red Sea was falling in on the Egyptians' chariots. If I place myself in that situation, I can only imagine being frozen where I stand. To go from one second being certain I was going to either die or be returned to slavery, to the next second seeing my enemy wiped out before my eyes, would be an awful lot to process.
We can only guess the full scene that followed. Exodus 15 tells us Moses and the people sang a song of deliverance. But taking into account the beautiful diversity of humankind and our responses, there may have been any combination of things happening at the same time: fear or adrenaline expressed as angry shouts, nervous chattering to compare notes on what had just been witnessed, weeping in joy or relief, even the deafening silence of shock, and everything in between.
Rising up out of all the possible noise in those moments following God's saving them was a tiny jingle. It was Miriam, sister to Moses and Aaron, who had picked up her timbrel and was about to get busy leading women in a praise song and dance.
When I contemplate the story, I see Miriam beginning with a slow, rhythmic tapping, interspersed at regular intervals with shaking the tambourine wildly. I imagine it only being heard initially by those in a small radius near where she stood. (No matter the differences in translation about just how many Israelites left Egypt, it was a BIG group of people.)
As Miriam plays and dances, I see the other women around her unpacking their timbrels and joining in. I hear different rhythms begin to layer on top of hers. The pace picks up to a joyful frenzy as their worship song unfolds. Exodus 15:21 provides the lyrics: "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." (AKJV - also the first lines from the song Moses "spake" beginning in Exodus 15:1)
The account of Miriam is only two Bible verses long, but I can practically feel the song and dance of worship swelling, moving out in a wave in all directions across the whole group of people until no one could help but join in.
It made me think of Catchy Song from the The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. A perfect example of an "ear worm," this song was being used in the movie to brainwash characters, making those who heard it join in and dance. The only thing remotely spiritual about it is the sense of utter joy it inspires in our household, as my husband and I can't help but dance like kids when we hear it. And in that way, it's very much like some of my favorite worship songs - no matter how often I hear them, they open up things inside me that are so big, I can't possibly contain them!
With songs like Be Still My Soul, it's just an overwhelming, wonderful ache that's touching something raw or deep in my experience. Remind Me Who I Am and Awake and Alive leave me clapping (or head banging in the case of the latter) as I get reminded of God's stepping up when I'm struggling.
I can rarely get through Your Great Name without sobbing the words in praise. I could still dance a jig whenever I hear the lively lament in the Celtic-inspired song Winter, and Crown Him with Many Crowns makes me want to stand up and just keeping on rising until I can sing it with the angels. (I get really frustrated when I have to sing this one slowly.)
I LOVE to worship with music, and these are just a few of the current favorites on my personal list of "catchy songs," but you get the idea. These are songs I can (and have, and do!) listen to over and over, and then find myself humming them for days.
If I just saw the words from Miriam's and Moses's song on a sticky note, I could get behind what they're saying, but I don't know that I could have appreciated what they meant to Israelites until I let myself imagine them in their context, being sung (and danced) after that miraculous crossing!
It wasn't a stretch to go from there and imagine the same thing in relation to the Psalms. These prayers and hymns were very human responses to all the experiences and emotions springing up from the authors' relationships with and understanding of God. These responses are universal to human beings, so I too can be deeply moved today by a song written centuries ago. When I begin to think about them as they may have been experienced in the context of their time and culture, though, I get excited about looking at them again through fresh eyes!
As the Israelites moved on from the Red Sea, and that day's events continued to be wondered over and retold around campfires, it's easy to imagine the song of Miriam and Moses being sung again and again. Sadly, it didn't stick for long; the Bible tells of the Israelites soon trading in their praise for complaining, (at one point even saying they would have been faring better if they had just been left in Egypt!
But how amazing would it have been if they had been able to (and if I could even now!) go through my days unable to shake the kind of worship and gratitude that welled up and spilled out in their song? What if my "ear worm" was the repeated acknowledgement of all the crazy huge things God does to help me get where I need to be, and the fact that he doesn't just leave me there?
Comment below or e-mail me with your "catchy songs" or other things that help you keep in a spirit of worship, celebration, and gratitude for the ways God is moving in your life right now (or even the way he is just holding you close)!
Here are links to some of the music mentioned in the post - enjoy!
Be Still My Soul - an absolutely glorious version by Libera
Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray
Awake & Alive by Skillet
Your Great Name by Natalie Grant
Winter by The Crossing
Crown Him With Many Crowns - a live performance in St. David's Hall in Cardiff
If you search for "Miriam's song of triumph" (or "Moses and Miriam's song") on YouTube, you'll find several interesting songs, including a classical, operatic version with music composed by Schubert!