Earlier in the Covid season, I read an Atlantic interview with Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health in the US. And although this interview was mostly focused on his speciality—the area of science—there was a pause mid-way through the article where he briefly spoke about the impact of music on the mind.
Collins states that Sigmund Freud—the famous German neurologist—apparently both hated and feared music because it affected him so powerfully and he wasn’t able to rationally explain why.
For someone like Freud, who was so accustomed to analysing people's minds and figuring out why their brains ticked or tocked the way they did, he couldn’t handle the idea that something like music could have such power over him without an explanation, without understanding why.
He couldn’t allow himself, in other words, to experience something that he could not understand. But this is an experience that we Christians are very familiar with.
We are always seeking that which we cannot fully understand. We don’t always know why things are the way they are; we don’t understand why things happen the way they do. We abandon ourselves into trust and faith. And music is one of those God-given gifts that calms us in the confusion and gives voice to our voiceless cries—without needing an explanation.
Collins recalls being about twelve years old and sitting in a Christmas Eve service. There was a choir and an organ playing, and he was “just feeling like there was something profound happening that caused me to long for something I couldn’t actually name.”
Music offers us moments where we can have a sense of something else, something desirable that lies beyond this life, a joy that might only be with us for a moment—yet has the capacity to carry us into the next moment. It offers us a glimpse of something that we long for, a way into the goodness of God Himself.
So in this season, I encourage you to embrace the gift of music and allow the Holy Spirit’s presence to meet you in song and usher your heart and mind to joy.
Prayer: Living God, thank you for all the ways that You meet with us and remind of us Your presence, but specifically through music. Help us, Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to lift up our hearts in song and to seek You and find You in every situation and circumstance. In Christ's Name, Amen.
Song: We sang this song a number of weeks ago in the service, and I’d love to share it with you again: https://youtu.be/Li2hddmy63U.