The Crossing Retreat

“I’m the definition of / half man, half drugs / ask the clubs / bad boy, that’s what’s up”

Last week I got the chance to speak at a spiritual retreat for a group of  high school students from The Crossing, a Jesus-centered school built specifically for kids for whom the traditional classroom is not a fit, for one reason or another.  A friend of mine on staff with The Crossing asked if I would come and speak on the importance of music/singing/worship as a spiritual discipline.

I started my talk with the lyrics at the top of this post. I recited those and the rest of the first verse of “Bad Boy for Life” by P. Diddy and the Bad Boy Family, circa 2001. It’s a song I haven’t heard since I graduated high school in 2003, more than a decade ago, but I still remember every single word.

My wife has shared stories of nursing home patients she’s worked with who can’t remember where they were born, the name of their spouse, or how many kids they have, but who can remember every word to every verse of the hymns they grew up singing in church. The point: music is powerful, and very sticky, both in your head and your heart.

David Bailey, a worship leader and author I respect, once said to me, “the only theology we really remember is the theology that we sing.” I would contend that all music is theology; somehow informing our understanding of who we are, the world around us, and whether or not a good God is actually King of it all.

Music has always been a place I go to fuel or quell thoughts and emotions; a space where lyrics and melody speak when my own words aren’t getting the job done. And what I’ve found, and what I told The Crossing students, is that giving your head and heart good theology to sing can make a massive impact in moments where it matters most.

In February of this year, my ENT doctor wheeled around in his chair and told me, in roughly the same tone you’d use if you were extending an invitation to an impromptu cookout, “welp…looks like it’s cancer.” Thyroid cancer. I’m 28. Four kids under five years old. The youngest born just the month before. Thyroid cancer.

In that moment, I can tell you confidently that “ask the clubs, bad boy, that’s what’s up” was not resonating in my heart, giving me context for hard news, helping me see where God is in the midst of it. In fact, at no time in the last 11 years have those lyrics ever come to mind in a way that was helpful at all. They just don’t carry that kind of weight.

I do, however, have lyrics that have done just that over the last several months. What I didn’t understand about the impact of thyroid cancer, is how much your thyroid is doing in your body to help regulate your…everything. It’s really messed with me. A lot of dark days and hard moments that creep in even still. And when they do, one of the most cathartic and helpful things for me has been music.

One song in particular, which is the song I shared with the kids from The Crossing, is the song “Satisfied in You” by The Sing Team. It’s a musical recasting of Psalm 42, a poem which handles sadness in a beautiful and worshipful way. And my prayer for the students at The Crossing, and for myself, my family, Northeast, is that we would find real, Life-giving satisfaction and joy in God in all circumstances.

Like a bed of rest…for my fainting flesh…I am satisfied in You.