I Sing as I Live

Resource Type: Articles

I wanted to know what people my age are saying to my interview questions, so I asked my friend Grace Weaver about her experiences with music. This interview is part of a series of articles on how best to encourage music.

Lynn Martin: What’s your experience with music? Do you sing or play? Does your family? 

Grace Weaver: I do sing, and my family does as well. None of us are instrumentalists. We love music and we mostly just sing for the glory of God.

I learned music around our kitchen. We didn’t listen to music a lot, but we mostly sang old hymns. We would sing as we worked and sing as we did school, and sing as we played. It was just the commoner’s music. That’s what I do.

LM: Have you taught music? Who taught music in your home?

GW: I never had any music classes. My mother would have taught the older children music, but by the time I came along, we weren’t doing music classes anymore. So I wasn’t really “taught,” per se. We just sang a lot together.

I taught music at school to the first, second, and third grades for two years. And I would have assisted once or twice when other people taught music—singing with the students and encouraging, mainly.

LM: Now that you’re an adult, who do you sing with?

GW: I’ve sung mainly with small a cappella groups and church stuff. I have sung with choirs and at weddings, but really overall I’m most comfortable singing with people who are just praising God, like churches and youth groups.

I sing as I work—that’s what we’ve always done ever since I was little. I sing to myself as I go through my life—when I’m with children, when I work, when I’m thinking. Sometimes I don’t even think about what I’m singing.

But I sing as I live, basically. Singing is a lot like talking, to me, so I often sing to encourage myself.

But right now I don’t intentionally get together with groups to sing.

LM: What are some Bible passages that you employ in understanding the topic of the importance of music?

GW: The theme is all through the Bible, where it talks about encouraging our souls in the Lord, about focusing on the good things. There are hundreds and hundreds of passages that you could quote—about being joyful in your spirit, about being glad, praising the Lord continually. The Psalms are heavy in it—every couple of verses, it talks about praising God and singing, but the theme is also all through the rest of the Bible.

If you read the story of the Israelites, you see that their praising God and their gratefulness and their singing was a huge part of their victory and their overcoming. And this idea comes into play again and again all throughout Bible stories and passages, where singing and being thankful—making a choice to be glad and to worship—is fundamental to success, courage, and victory.

LM: Why do you care about music?

GW: Because God cares about it, and because it’s beautiful. Beautiful things fight ugly things better than ugly things do. I care about music because it shifts my perspective from negativity to worship and gives me a basis to go forward—a framework to build on.

When life gets hard, it’s easy for me to see the negative things—to complain and to wallow in them. If I can instead make the decision to sing, it changes my perspective to that of worship, which puts God back into his rightful place. And then, instead of grumbling or complaining, or feeling like I have the worst lot in life (or whatever negative perspective I’m tempted to have), it changes my perspective.

When I sing and encourage myself in the Lord, it shifts my perspective to a more wholesome one.

Most of us are tempted to block out stresses in our lives, rather than doing the hard work of correcting our perspectives. Not all of the things we use as distractions are bad in themselves. People might watch movies or sports, or even do everyday things like cleaning or shopping in order to distract themselves from the negativity and stress that they’re facing. Whereas singing isn’t a distraction—it’s an adjustment of perspective. I’ve learned that singing allows me to stay engaged in the conflict in the moment, without being distracted. It changes the way I think about the issue.

LM: What types of music are you interested in? 

GW: I mostly just make music instead of listening to recordings. In general, I like to be engaged in making music together to the Lord.

I really appreciate hymn music. Also, classical music can have a big place in calming the mind and in bringing courage, a shift in perspective, motivation, and so on. So I think there’s definitely a place for recorded music, but the music I tend to be involved in the most is just your simple, plain hymns that you can sing as you wash dishes.

LM: How does music affect you? How does it grow you? Does it differ based on the type of music?

GW: It definitely differs based on the type of music. There’s some music that brings death—I really believe that. There’s music that brings depression or sensuality. Those kinds of music are not ones that I’m interested in at all. But I don’t feel like there are clear-cut lines, where you can say, “This genre of music is always sensual.” But I do think that there is definitely music that is healthy and music that is unhealthy.

LM: What does the healthy music offer you?

GW: It brings perspective and the person of God. It brings the fruits of the spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. I believe, that when you sing, and sing from your heart, singing meaningful texts with Spirit-led music, the fruits of the Spirit are encouraged.

Now, you can’t just sing away sin. But I do believe that when you’ve been in battle, and you’re discouraged and suffering, Spirit-led music encourages the fruits of the Spirit in the believer.

Healthy music is sort of like nourishment—it’s food and water to the spiritual warrior.

LM: Would you say that, over the years, your music has changed you? Do you have any examples of that?

GW: Absolutely. I would not be who I am today if it wouldn’t be for music. For years now, whenever I’m sick or in pain, singing has given me the courage to continue on.

When my brother died, the night that he passed, we were all in shock, grieving the tragic accident. But we gathered our whole family around and we sang together. That stands out very clearly in my memory, and my siblings remember it very clearly, too. That singing time was a very bonding time and a very anchoring time for us, where we were able to connect with each other and with God. That connection tided us through those very difficult days of the funeral and the first days of trying to get our equilibrium back from the disaster. That singing was a really huge part of keeping us from coming unglued.

LM: How does music influence a culture? What effects have you seen?

GW: Whenever we listen to unstable, unsubstantial music, I think it affects the fruits of our lives. Not that the music is necessarily even wicked, but that those who passively listen to escapism music tend to become that kind of a person.

Whereas the people whose input continually is solid, biblical, God-honoring, stable music—their lives also reflect that. The courage and the faith that’s drawn from their music changes the decisions that they make and the way that they view the world.

Music changes your worldview, and of course that’s going to affect your culture.

LM: In the different cultures you’ve observed, what are some correlations you’ve seen between what the youth listen to and what they’re like?

GW: I see a connection between the music we listen to and the other activities we engage in. For example, some young people might listen to genres of modern, chaotic music and could be a little more frivolous and unstable. They might be interested in less substantial things like sports, shopping, movies, dress, and vehicles.

Other youth that I’ve observed, ones who might sing a lot and listen to a fairly hymn-based or classical style, might be a little more thoughtful in their approach to life. Their pursuits could tend to be more literary, more family-oriented, more community-oriented. It feels like life matters to them more, and they have goals and visions and definite boundaries of right and wrong, of good and evil, oftentimes. They know when those boundaries have been crossed.

These are examples, but I think they ring true.

LM: What values should we look for in the music we take part in?

GW: I think our music needs to be God-honoring, and that the Spirit needs to be at peace while listening to it. If it’s contrary to the Spirit, if it brings chaos or confusion or disillusionment or darkness, then it’s not for the Christian.

The fruit of the Spirit should be reflected in the music that we listen to. In other words, if, when we’re listening, we don’t feel peace, goodness, faith, temperance, all those things, then we know that the music is not God-honoring.

LM: If a young person asked you, “Grace, what should I be thinking about when I make or listen to music?” what would you tell them?

GW: I think that music opens our spirit’s door to influence. As humans, we are very affected and influenced by music, and the devil has a hold in that field as well as God. There’s a lot of music out there that is contrary to the Spirit.

And it’s not like it’s black and white, where we can say, “This is God’s music” and “This is the devil’s music.” Some people might be able to do that, but I’m not to the place where I’m willing to say, “Never to listen to country or hip-hop; it’s the devil’s music.”

But I think that, if we have the Spirit of God, our spirit bears witness within us whether the music that is playing is of the spirit of truth, is of the spirit of goodness, or if it’s of the spirit of confusion, or of the spirit of darkness.

What I would say to somebody who asked me that question, is “Try the spirits; see if they are of God. See if they are of light. And pray about it. When you listen to music, it’s a big deal. It’s not just an escapism thing; you can’t just passively take in whatever you want and imbibe whatever sounds you want, and assume that nothing’s going to happen to your soul. Something will happen to your soul. And do you want your soul to be lifted up and encouraged, blessed and furthered along the Kingdom road? Or do you want to put in a bunch of trash and garbage that you somehow have to sort through?”

So try the spirits, see what they are of. Is the music of God, or isn’t it? And I think that only the Spirit that is within you will be able to bear full witness to that.

Lynn Martin

Lynn Martin serves as administrative assistant at SCMC. Because he loves to sing, he's often been a student at the VA camp and has sung in other choirs too. He writes poetry and edits the Curator (thecurator.org), a publication for Anabaptist poets and writers. He also enjoys such things as theology, playing oboe, and lame jokes.
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