Church is in the eyes of the beholder. Or ears, for that matter.
While listening to my iPod and running on this beautiful August Sunday morning, Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” single lifted me up and hit that sweet spot where you know you’ve been witness to the divine. Let me explain.
For the first time in weeks, I woke with energy and an eagerness for a run around the town.
My iPod was clipped to my shorts and set on random. There’s a new set of music loaded on the device and I’m still getting used to some of the songs. It’s been a nice change from the favorites that have become over-played the past several months.
There’s always a sense of anticipation before a run because my eternal hope is that between the beginning and end of the run, something will assail my senses, permeate my brain and convince me there’s more to being human than the mundane repetition of my life. Sometimes that “something” is emotional; I’ll run with someone and find that perfect connection where we’re exactly in tune with each other. Sometimes that “something” is physical; the repetitive movements of running will have allowed me to release some stress and I’ll find solace in the strength of my body. Sometimes it’s visual; I’ll look up and find that I’m bearing witness to a tiny miracle of this earth, and I’ll feel blessed that I was there at the right place and time to see it. And sometimes, that “something” is auditory.
I had been running for forty five minutes already. There were so many people out on the trails enjoying the beautiful morning; solo runners, pairs of walkers, people with their dogs. A little boy on the Coal Creek Trail was followed by his mother and dog as they casually rode along the gravel.
Pounding over the shady Coal Creek Trail, I was surprised when the strains of this particular song began. Quiet, melodic piano chords wisped through my ear-buds for a few measures, then the orchestra joined in and Michael Jackson’s high tenor touched my soul.
Like the river Jordan
And I will then say to Thee
You are my friend
Like you are my brother
Love me like a mother
Would you be there…”
The first two verses were quiet and meditative as I crossed over Bella Vista Avenue and made my way around Community Park. Suddenly, the next stanza started and I got chills.
Tell me will you hold me
When wrong, will you scold me
When lost will you find me?
But they told me
A man should be faithful
And walk when not able
And fight till the end
But I’m only human…”
My legs picked up speed and my cadence matched the rhythm of the music. Yes, he’s only human. I’m only human too. What does being human mean?
“Everyone’s taking control of me
Seems that the world’s
Got a role for me
I’m so confused
Will you show to me
You’ll be there for me
And care enough to bear me…”
The music began to crescendo and Michael’s voice became increasingly passionate. I shivered again and felt the power of his longing, his never-ending quest to find the higher power that would elevate him, allowing him to revel in his mortality instead of humbly accepting that he can’t be better because “I’m only human”.
There’s a strong parallel between Michael Jackson’s search for a higher power in his tabloid life, and publicly singing about wanting to connect with a being that will help lift him up and be a better person. I was transported into a spiritual place where I made that intimate connection to the highest power, that innate wisdom that allows the pulsing energy of earth, our humanness, and whatever greater consciousness there is, into my own life.
I hit “repeat” on my iPod each time the song ended and listened to it three times through. Each time, the swell of the music and the passion in Michael’s voice gave me chills. I waited with excited anticipation for the gospel choir and joined in to the chorus, adding my voice and singing for all I was worth to God.
Sometimes “church” is a place to go. Sometimes it’s a message that is delivered, or received. Today, for me, “church” was being outside in nature, moving my body, and listening to the gospel choir in Michael Jackson’s song about finding God, or a friend, to be there with him on his journey through life. It’s a universal message and one worthy of church on a Sunday morning.