I have been thinking about melodic line a lot lately. I think it has something do with some of those modern hymns we sing. You know the ones. You rumble down in the bottom of your range where you have absolutely no power at all for the whole verse, then immediately jump to the top of your range for the chorus, where the only way you can sing it (if, like me, you are getting long in the tooth and your range is the only part of your body that is shrinking) is to screech. I have developed my own term for those songs—it’s a “grovel then soar” melodic curve.
As a general rule, I am not crazy about those songs because they are so difficult to sing safely, but in a never ending search for ways to get the most out of them, I have decided that at least they remind me of my life before and after Christ. You wallow around in the pit of sin until you finally reach the point that you know you need help. So you fall prostrate before a Lord who offers you mercy and yes, you grovel before him because you have finally lost all that pride. Then, because of his grace and your gratitude, you soar. You soar over the sins that used to mire you down, you soar over the god of self that kept you pinned to this physical life, and eventually you soar with your Savior to a better place forever. No more wallowing, no more groveling, no more weights to tie you down; you are free to skyrocket as high as you let your Lord take you.
In music, this works best when the distinction is greatest. The lower the “groveling” notes, the more the “soaring” notes affect the listener. I am afraid it works best that way in your heart as well. If you don’t realize how low your sins have sunk you and how much you need the Lord, you will never soar as high as you should. That Pharisee who stood in the synagogue thanking God for how righteous he was never really understood how much he needed mercy. So, Jesus sadly says, he went home unforgiven. We, also, are prone to think we deserve salvation, especially when we have been Christians for awhile, especially when we have “grown up in the church.” It shows when we question God for the pain in our lives, when we fail to preach to any but those we think “deserve” our attention, and when we refuse to forgive others for the wrongs they have done us.
So use those difficult songs as I do. The next time you sing them, remember: You aren’t forgiven until you repent. You cannot soar until you grovel. And you won’t do that until you recognize your own need for mercy.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, Eph 2:4-7.