Tonight I went to see Amy Grant in concert. I sat there, near the front, crying my eyes out for the first 30 minutes or so. I had heard she was going to be in town, but delayed making a decision about going until about 3 hours before the concert. Then, at the last minute, I decided I had to go. Since I hadn't really planned on it, I ended up going by myself. This turned out to be a blessing I think. I didn't even try to rein in my emotions. I just cried. A lot. At first I wasn't sure why I was crying. After all, it wasn't intended to be a sad event.
I have loved Amy Grant since I was a pup. I think I might've been 10 or 11 when my church youth leader introduced me to her. Prior to that I was a big Madonna/Michael Jackson fan. (I still am actually) But there was something about Amy. I had never heard of "Christian pop" or "Contemporary christian music" - as she eventually was labeled. All I understood was here was this young woman singing about God, her faith and her struggles. I was fascinated, and I loved her honesty. I went to my first concert when I was 11 or 12 - at the Fox Theatre. It was actually my first concert ever. We were in the WAY back of the theatre, but still I was mesmerized. I went back, again and again, to see this woman sing. I followed her music over the next 2 decades as she went pop and then back to hymns and now to somewhere in between. Her newest CD speaks to precisely where I find myself today. It is soulful and gentle. It is painful at moments, and sweet at others.
I think the reason I was so overcome with emotion tonight had to do with a lot of things. At least some of it was remembering how easy and simple faith was back when I first met Amy. While it wasn't nearly as textured and layered and moving, it was faith all the same. And it was strong and overwhelming even then. I didn't understand God very well, and I was often fearful of screwing up - but I knew I wanted this thing called faith - this relationship with God. My image of God has changed drastically...but the longing remains. That beautiful longing for the Divine. There is something to be said for life experience, but that first breath - that first fall - it is holy. It is what drove the songwriter to write, "How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed." I remember, with not just a little longing, that hour. How new everything appeared - how I knew that my faith was enough to sustain me for a whole lifetime. Amy was a part of that experience.
Probably another part of my breakdown had to do with my present circumstances and fear. Amy sings a song called "It takes a little time." And it was one of the first songs she sang tonight. The idea behind it is that change/pain/difficulty is a process, and sometimes it takes some time to pass through it. While I have paid lip service to this idea for the past year, I am just beginning to feel the depths of the pain I have over my divorce. The loss, the betrayal, the pain of it all has overwhelmed me in the past few weeks. It has made me confront feelings I haven't dealt with...ones I have shelved away and hoped not to have to pass through. All I can say is, I hurt. It's hard for me to even speak of it without breaking down. As I type, tears stream down my face. It's as if someone uncorked something deep inside and I cannot help but overflow. My emotions are so near to the surface.
Again, Amy's music is defining for me. When she talks of being unafraid, I get that. While I feel pain, I feel that I can finally face my future unafraid. Fear has played such a large role for me. I have made so many decisions out of fear. Fear of being alone...fear of being rejected...fear of not being enough...fear of what it would mean to live unafraid. For the first time in my life, I am consciously aware that I want to face life unafraid. As she sang tonight, love has made me unafraid, I realized this is the difference. My faith has become about love - about claiming God's love for my life. I can't always tell you whether Jesus was a sacrificial lamb or whether we should have open communion or how I feel about the conflicts that mar our churches from the inside out. But I can tell you that love has to be part of this thing we call faith. And that faith means very little, if anything, without it. And that the only God I understand is one that is love first, and anything else second. And I can tell you that that love is stronger than any fear I have encountered. If I can get out of the way...if I can let go of the faith of my father...if I can embrace what I've always known is holy...then I can live unafraid. Love has made me unafraid. Amy says it best.
This post appears somewhat incomplete. I know there was more to my breakdown tonight than I can recognize or articulate at this point. But I'm thankful. By the end of the concert I was singing along and laughing. It was a journey through my past - a past of both great faith and a life lived with fear. And I know there's so much more to learn - to know - to have faith in.