Bob Dylan has never been one of my favorite musicians. I enjoy a few of his songs, but truthfully I prefer to hear them sung by a different artist. So when some members of my family made plans to go to a Dylan concert in our area, I was ambivalent about joining them. I thought about it for awhile and finally came down on the side of enjoying an evening outdoors with good company.
As it turned out, it was a lovely evening. A warm summer night, enthusiastic aging hippies, the smell of pot drifting in the air (couldn’t avoid the aroma, but didn’t breathe deep) and a clear view of the stage. I have long been of the opinion that Dylan’s voice leaves something to be desired. His always raspy voice was now rough, and the words were largely unintelligible. I had hoped for familiar songs but only recognized one of them, an out of tune rendition of Blowing in the Wind.
Lying lazily there on the grass, watching a neighboring group pass around a joint, my ears gradually began to tune in to the music. It suddenly struck me – hey! the band is like really good. Dylan playing honky-tonk on the baby grand, electric, acoustic and bass guitars chiming in, and amazing drums – they rocked the park! The background music blended with Dylan’s voice to make his songs not just acceptable, but something special. My focus on Dylan’s voice had blinded me to the bigger sound.
The concert reminded me of a similar situation in a completely different setting. Many years ago we were on vacation and visited a small church on a Sunday morning. A young girl was doing ‘special music’. Her untrained voice was on the weak side and had a tendency to crack. The overall effect, while not terrible, was not especially pleasing. Ah, but on the chorus it was a different story. Her mother, standing in the background, added her voice to the song with an amazing effect. The notes rang out high and clear, the tones so sweet and true that my senses felt heightened and I held my breath straining to hear every note. From my description you might think that her voice had moved into the foreground, but interestingly, her voice remained in the background. Rather than drowning out her daughter, her voice served to complement and enhance the weaker voice. The beautiful blending of their voices was lovely.
And then, when I didn’t expect it, like a drumbeat, the answer came:
Your grace is sufficient for me.
You will never leave me or forsake me.
You have loved me with an everlasting love.
Nothing can separate me from the love of God.
This is the ever present, background music of my life. The steady drumbeat of God’s love for me keeps beat with the rhythm of my heart.
When my voice is out of tune, or indeed, when I have no song to sing, His Spirit is at work playing a complex symphony designed to harmonize with my life. When my voice is weak, He is the One who strengthens and completes the song I am singing. As I go about my daily, mundane tasks, He comes alongside and whispers to me that my life matters. He is the One who encourages me to “Do all things for the glory of God.”
Oh, what a wonderful symphony plays in the life of all believers! So often we are aware of only the weak, out of tune song that is our life. Just as when I was focused on Dylan’s raspy, rough voice and ignoring the background music, we can be so focused on our lives that we don’t hear the Lord singing harmony. We need to tune our ears to hear the sound of our faithful God ever creating harmony and a song of praise to Him.
It was the Dylan concert that got me thinking about this. Who would have thunk it? But I have to say that even Dylan has a clue about these things. The song When You Gonna Wake Up? ( Slow Train Coming ) has these words:
There’s a man up on a cross and He’s been crucified for you
Believe in His power that’s about all you got to do.
He’s got that right.