Nothing I Hold Onto
I Lean Not On My Own Understanding. My life is in the hands of the maker of Heaven.
There was, and is, so much about our faith that I struggle to understand. Concepts like our Trinitarian God, saving sex and sexual acts for marriage, and Christ’s redemptive suffering can seem elusive and difficult to conceptualize. Praise and Worship music helped me to name my doubts and pray through them through the music.
In college, when I doubted God’s existence and his love for me, I went on a weekend retreat in Lake Worth, Florida. The retreat featured talks, witnesses, and mass every day. It also had a group of live musicians who introduced me to the beauty and the vulnerability of prayer through song.
When I began to sing the words, it felt very vulnerable, like I was professing something I did not fully believe. I felt like people would see me as a fake, singing words I did not understand. I tried to zone everyone else out and keep my eyes fixed on the Eucharist in the Monstrance.
It was then that the Holy Spirit lit a fire in my heart and gave me the grace to sing, recognizing that my own understanding was not enough to lean on. I understood then that the way I was living my life freshman year was not going to bring me lasting joy in the same way I encountered on that retreat.
I give it all to you God, trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me.
In prayer, before the Blessed Sacrament during the same retreat, as I sang out the lyrics above, I was given an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary bringing me five or six suitcases to fill up in a bright white room where I was sitting on the floor.
She handed me everything, and I messily packed each bag with all of the high heels, bodycon skirts, and jewelry as quickly as possible. Together, we zipped up the suitcases and she rolled them away. The room was empty, and my mind finally felt at peace to focus intently on the Eucharist in front of me, healing me of all the lies I had believed about myself.
I felt utterly empty and entirely full all at once. I could not understand the feeling. All I could do was sing out the words:
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.
Mother Mary helped me to empty myself in order to receive what God had to give me. The years since have often felt like an uphill climb, but in difficult times, I turned to Praise and Worship music for the comfort and the strength to keep going. When my post-graduation plans fell through, I sang through the tears of disappointment. When I did not have the strength to open a Bible, I heard the Gospel in the lyrics of my favorite worship songs.
Christian music helps me clear my mind of distractions and enter into prayer throughout the day. When my life felt the most hectic, overbooked, and stressful, I invited people once a month to come over to my apartment and sing Praise and Worship songs for an hour.
United in song, we opened our hands to God and emptied ourselves of the burdens weighing on us. It was not flashy or over-the-top. The nights were casual, peaceful, and many times off-key. We bonded as friends as we tried and failed to harmonize or forgot the words mid-song. It was an imperfect combination of song and spontaneous prayer. We stepped out together in vulnerability to worship the Lord in the midst of many unknowns.
For me, listening to Christian music is an integral part of my spiritual life. It helps me enter more deeply into prayer and let go of the false sense of control that I often cling to in times of uncertainty. Praying through song is the way I surrendered the pain of losing a friend, a loved one, and a romantic relationship. Hosting Praise and Worship nights is my way of sharing this joy with others and leading by example that you don’t need an angelic voice to praise God in song.
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Renee lives in Arlington, VA, and works for an international development firm in Washington, DC. She loves leading Walking With Purpose Bible studies at her parish and trying new cuisines from local restaurants. She has a Master’s in Latin American Studies from GWU and a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies from the University of Miami.