One of the difficult things about being an adult is knowing that often times, experiences fail to live up to your expectations. Even my 12 year old daughter expressed this worry a few weeks ago concerning a youth group trip to the mountains for the day. Though she recognized the potential of being let down with such high expectations, she has not learned the skill of tempering the imagination so that she won’t be so disappointed.
Yet, sometimes in life there are those rare moments when you allow yourself the freedom to dream. To unbridle your excitement like a child who knows of no such boundaries of the heart. There are the moments when you simply cannot contain yourself. Even if you tried. This was where I found myself on Thursday morning as I was getting ready to head up to the mountains for the Andrew Peterson concert.
On the way, I spent some time praying for the show. I was pretty certain that this was a different venue than what the performers were accustomed to because it was a private concert for the high school retreat of a local christian school. Most of the students had never heard of Andrew Peterson or his music, and it does not matter who you are…..that can be intimidating.
I prayed that the audience would be kind. As a public speaker/teacher myself, this is so important as the risk of standing in front of strangers giving them the deepest parts of yourself can be very unnerving. But if there is kindness in the room, regardless of what kind of ‘performance’ you are having, you can be at rest in the moment.
But mostly, I prayed that the kids, parents, and school staff would come in contact with the beauty and mystery of the gospel story which is where Andrew Peterson and his friends, Ben Shive and Andy Gullahorn take you with their music. They lead you into the stories that are true.
I got there early(shocker) and listened to the sound check. Though familiar with all of the music, I had no idea what they were going to play. What does the set look like for a room full of high school students? A room full of kids torn by the messages of the world shouting at them so loudly that they are unable to pick out the wooings of the Love of God for each of them.
When I heard the first notes of one of my favorite songs called “All Things New“, the stress I felt for those three men and in my own life simply melted away. I knew it was going to be wonderful because Andrew Peterson’s music is full of integrity and excellence. I turned to my friend and said, “I am so happy right now.”
After the third song, I was no longer just happy. I was proud of the performers, because I realized that weren’t going to pretend. Like always, they were honest, open, and vulnerable. Which was great because these kids could spot a fraud a mile away. And really all anyone wants is for you to be honest with them.
I think as we age, we err in forgetting, dismissing, or even worse…shutting down what it was like to be 15yrs old – 18 years old. When we encounter teenagers, we critically think that they should just “know better”whether dealing with social pressures or parental expectations. Sadly, as we grow in wisdom and knowledge ourselves, we lose sight of the fact that we did not ‘know better’ during the same stage of life. I feel sad when I have very little humility in how far I have come in my journey with Christ that I cannot conjure up compassion for high school shenanigans. As if I had anything to do with the changes inside of me.
Even if we did know better back then, it is important not to belittle the struggle and angst that comes with such a difficult season. We do a great injustice when all we offer is a set of rules. Because honestly, we have so much more to give them. We can give ourselves, and our own stories of journeying to the Father. To the well of living water and of hope. Which is what Andrew did, and frankly….does so well.
He began telling stories of what it looked like to be broken and needy, but did so in a whimsical way with humor and mystery. We were all swept up into his tales, and the kids found something they did not expect. They found grace and hope. They saw that we do not come to the Father perfect, clean, or even “cool.” We come to Him battered, bruised, and full of sin. And the beauty in that is because of Christ…..we are not turned away.
It was a magical night, and I was thankful to be a small part. I loved watching the students rest and enjoy themselves. They laughed, they pleaded for it not to end, and they were encouraged to dream child like dreams of freedom again. It was an invitation to let go of their own boundaries of the heart and in doing so, they were able to take a small step of faith towards letting the hope of the gospel move them and their imaginations away from cynicism and fear.
Dare I say, we all began to have high expectations again of “the stories that are true.”
oh, and as for a picturing saying a 1,000 words….i’m just sayin’
left to right: Andy G.(his music astounds me), Ben S.(his music inspires me), and Andrew P.(his music anchors me.)