I got nothing done this last week, but I’m going to count it as research, because I spent every evening watching Ken Burns’ Country Music.* I checked the multi-disc DVD out of the library and had limited time to watch it, since others had it on hold as well. I will confess that I extended the due date (since I am the Branch Librarian, after all) so I could finish it over the weekend!
I grew up in the South and have lived my whole life just miles away from the Grand Ole Opry, but it wasn’t until my new daughter-in-law’s Illinois-bred father came to town a year or so back, that I actually went to a show. I loved it and had a great time, but that’s another story.
With this documentary, I was just enthralled. I could not stop watching it. It told the story of the roots of country music, the stories of the people who wrote the songs, sang and played, but in the end, I felt it was my story. These were all my people — black, white, Hispanic, Canadian, Australian — everyone who made their way into the history of not just this music, but this country: they were part of who I was and the life I lived.
Two things struck me the most — one, that the music was not “pure” in any sense of the word, but it was a conglomeration of what each person had lived and heard growing up. The whites borrowed from the blacks, the steel guitars joined the orchestras, the songs were adapted and changed and harmonized because of the influence of someone who’d crossed the path of the songwriter. It was beautiful to behold, and I wish it was a lesson each one of us would be reminded of in this life. We need each other.
The second thing that got me was the stories. Yes, I’m a writer, so that’s an obvious take-away, you’d think, but it was really so clear in this series. It didn’t matter the strength of the singer or musician, but the power of the story. That’s what gripped people and made the difference.
Those stories of real, painful, redeeming, troubled lives where sung not just once and forgotten, but were re-sung by the next generation. They may have had different tunes or audiences, but they still spoke and reminded people that someone else understood what they were going through. Oh, how my inner poet was stirred as I listened to their mournful tunes.
What does this have to do with our Wednesday Wisdom? What does it have to do with our desire to honor Christ with our lives? Two things:
Don’t forget your past — learn from it, build on it, and find redemption through it.
That’s what the Bible’s all about anyway — stories of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and followers of Jesus, who lived by faith, even when they didn’t see what they hoped for. After that great reminder of the faithful ones, the writer of Hebrews says:
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.*
Hopefully, you don’t have to go all the way back to the Bible to see examples of faith, though it’s alright if you do. Either way, remember those who have lived out their faith for you. Their story affects your story. Sing their song and adapt it yours.
Your story matters.
What are the influences in your life that have made you who you are today? How has God redeemed your past, given you hope in the midst of darkness, enabled you to press through the hard times?
Don’t be afraid to share that story with others. Tell it to your children and your children’s children. Allow your story to inspire and draw other to Jesus.
When my grandmother, born in 1889, was a young girl, an aunt told her that she couldn’t sing, or “couldn’t carry a tune,” as we say in the South. She never sang another note for the rest of her life. My father never heard his mother sing when he was a boy, even in church. Yet, on her deathbed, just a few short days before she died, he heard her sing, “Oh, Happy Day.” It would be the first and only time he’d hear her sing. He knew she was singing because she’d seen Jesus and was ready to go.
Don’t let the Devil steal your song or your story. It may not be pretty, but it’s worth sharing, because God wants to use it to be part of His Story in the lives of others.
Grace and Peace
*Country Music: A Ken Burns Film. Published by Public Broadcasting Service, 2019.
*Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV.