I find music very emotive. Songs, for me, have the ability to conjure up memories of days gone by, times and seasons that have passed and most certainly they remind me of people.
Abba and Lionel Richie will always be Ghana and Billy Joel will always remind me of road trips to Livingstone with two excited little boys singing along from the back seat. Aiden and Jacob know his songs word for word and when we hear one, one of them will always comment “remember when?”
I heard the singing this afternoon long before I saw the singers walking up the path. It was one of those “remember when” moments.
The year was 2000 – 21 years ago. It was a Sunday morning and we were probably a month into our first year in Zambia. I had a fractious 1 year old Jacob on my lap. We were at the back of the church when the singing started. If you have any experience of Zambia you will know the sound – trying to explain it is so difficult – it is rich and raw, deeply moving, you can’t just listen, it somehow gets into you. I have heard and been affected by it during car journeys, sat at funerals, in the garden and at the CiCA office but this day was different and at the time I had no idea why.
It began and I had no idea what the song meant, but as they sang, the music flooded my senses, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I had goose bumps down my arms. Tears just began to flow down my face. I can’t describe this moment. It will be forever imprinted on my mind. It had such an impact on me. I sat in that state until they came to the end.
After the church service I asked someone about this song.
They pointed me to Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Maybe it is because the reality of lack is so evident here and that the darkest valley is so part of everyone’s everyday experience it is difficult to avoid, that makes this particular Psalm, sung in Bemba, so emotional for me.
I learned that song – 21 years ago. And have sung it countless times and it still impacts my life now.
Today the singers carried it up the garden path – it was beautiful to hear. I knew they had chosen that song because of what it means to me. And for a moment I closed my eyes and remembered that God has been faithful over many years. That he has provided, and led and comforted me, that my darkest valleys have been bearable because of Him. Today His goodness and love for us has been evident in the visitors we have received, including a beautiful new granddaughter – the first grandchild of our dear friend Pastor Chilambo, who died just a few years ago – Nick had the privilege of walking his daughter, Taona, down the aisle in August 2019 and today we held his granddaughter, our granddaughter in our arms. Surely goodness and love shall follow me all the days of my life…