One of my most poignant memories at a concert was when I got the chance to see U2 during the "Joshua Tree Tour" in 1986.
For years, U2 has ended their shows with the song "40," which is drawn directly from Psalm 40 and has the refrain, "How long, to sing this song?" which the band repeatedly sings as the song ends.
They fade out one instrument and then another until the only sound is lead singer Bono's voice leading the crowd as they sing along.
On that summer day, the sun had been beating down on us through two opening acts and then a complete set of U2's classics before it finally began to disappear, streaking the sky with a deep orange and dusky golden sunset.
By the time the band began to play "40," the crowd was exhausted but still exhilarated.
And we sang the refrain that day along with Bono, even after the lights went down and the band was backstage preparing to leave.
We sang that refrain at the top of our lungs like a vast choir, lighters in the air (that was a thing back then if you remember), creating a sea of lights and sound like I'd never experienced, nor have I since.
I recently read a blog post from author Seth Godin that got me thinking about that moment, and I began wondering what it must have been like for U2 to play that song for the first time in front of a crowd. They must have written it with the end in mind because it's just the perfect song to sing along to.
But on that first time, did people sing with them? Did they wonder, perhaps, if anyone would? It wasn't a foregone conclusion, was it?
Seth Godin's quote, which got my mind wandering down memory lane, went something like this:
If you’re not prepared to sing alone, it’s difficult to get to the point where people sing along with you.
Now most of us will never know what it's like to lead 60,000 people in a sing-along to a song that we wrote, but we do have "songs" of our own to sing through the way we live, move and create in the world.
But so many of us spend our lives keeping our songs inside of us, afraid to sing them out loud for fear that no one will join us. We worry that whatever we have to sing might not be worth hearing.
There is a quote I read years ago from Wayne Dyer, "Don't die with your music in you..." That's a powerful statement, isn't it?
And yet, that is what so many people do. They live their lives holding in their song, afraid that no one will ever sing it with them, so they leave this world without ever singing it where it can be heard.
So here is the lesson in all of this, one that is hard to learn, but once learned, it can change everything for us.
Sing your song.
Don't be afraid if no one sings along with you at first because there will come a day when, after you've sung it often enough, others will join you in singing.
And know this as well...
Even if others don't, there is always a voice singing with you, just as the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah declared:
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
Beloved, the One who put your song within you, knows the words by heart and will never let you sing alone.
May this fill you with joy and hope and singing. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.