In these bodies we will live / in these bodies we will die. / Where you invest your love, / you invest your life. / Awake my soul … Awake my soul … awake my soul … For you were made to meet your maker.
—Mumford and Sons, “Awake My Soul”
Last week I wrote about dance, about the joy dancing brings me and how when I dance I can find myself and simultaneously connect to something greater than myself. Having spent a bit more time dancing to iTunes in the privacy of my bedroom this past week than I normally do, a new thought has occurred to me: I might be a music person. This thought has come as quite a surprise, as it runs contrary to my inability to carry a tune, to the fact that the only activity I really ever quit growing up was piano lessons, and to my desire to keep the radio off in my car so I can relish the quiet.
Bantu Dancing from NeilsPhotography (Flickr)
But this new self-identification has brought back other memories that indicate I may have been a music person all along (but maybe just thought a bit too narrow-mindedly about who a music person is). For instance, as I type this, I can easily recall the words to some of my favorite hymns from the red Worship or blue Gather hymnals that we used in our church. (“Gather us in the lost and forsaken, gather us in the blind and the lame; call to us now and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name…”; “Let us build the city of God, may our tears be turned into dancing…”; “Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea, raise your voices, lift your hearts…” Seriously, I could go on and on!) As a child, a lot of Sunday mass went over my head, but singing was something that I could participate in, something that made me feel a part of the community. And the joy in the voices of those around me never failed to bring a smile to my face. In my child’s imagination, I envisioned each of our individual voices joining together above our heads to create a gift that was greater than the sum of its parts, a gift that floated up and out of church to be with God in heaven. Now, as an adult, I can see that God was also touching us as we sang together each Sunday.
The Mumford and Sons song I quote above tells us that we are made to meet our makers. I think that the phrase “meet your maker” is usually connected with death in people’s minds, as in “Will you be proud or ashamed of this or that action or part of your history when you meet your maker, that is, die and face judgment in front of God?” In this sense, it an ominous phrase, one that might scare us into acting as we know we are supposed to.
But as I think about these lyrics as we approach Ascension Sunday, during which we celebrate Jesus returning to heaven to be with God, they take on a new and positive meaning for me. We are made to meet our maker. That is, God made us, all of us human beings, to be in communion with God. Just as Jesus ascended to be with God, we, too, will “meet” God fully in the afterlife. Yet in transcendent experiences in this life, experiences in which we touch something greater than ourselves, I think we already get to meet our maker, if only dimly, if not as perfectly or as completely as we will know God after death (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). In this life, we get to experience mini-ascensions that give us a a glimpse of the glory that comes when we are fully one with God.
For me, music and dance help me to know myself at the same time as they enable me to connect with something greater than myself. For me, music and dance can lead to mini-ascensions, to moments of pure joy and connections with the divine. In musical transcendence, I feel most myself because I am connecting with the God who made me to be this self. Musical transcendence awakes my soul, as Mumford and Sons sing, because in it I am touching the source of my soul.
In what experiences do you experience transcendence, that is, the sense that you are connected to something greater than yourself? Have you met God in these experiences?