God in the Mosh-Pit
I’m not sure what I thought I would find when I stepped inside the gymnasium the last Saturday night in March. I know that I was hoping to find my sister and enjoy the show–but I considered neither of those very likely given the crowd of people crammed inside the gym and the fact that I hadn’t been to a concert in over five years. As far as concerts go, I had thought that they were over for me–that they had simply become relics of my high school and early college years, along with all the music I had so loved and then lost in the autumn of 2008.
“Depression” was the word I typed into the Google search bar, which lead me to the identically titled Wikipedia article, which helped me to finally understand why I had lost the ability to enjoy anything, why I had no appetite and couldn’t get out of bed, and why the notes of my favorite songs no longer meant anything to me. By the time I lost music altogether I had long since abandoned any pretense of caring about the Christian music scene. Except for a few embarrassingly cheesy Christian CD’s that had initially guided my entrance into the world of music, I was a musical product of Blink-182 and all the pop-punk rock bands and Vans Warped Tours that followed so gloriously in their wake. Rather early on I had decided that Christian music was boring, often corny, and provided hardly any lyrics that I could actually relate to.
Except in the case of one band. Not all the cheesy Christian bands in the world could have kept me away from Relient K. I loved everything about them. The guys were young and cool and relatable. Their songs not only had that light-hearted pop-punk sound of happiness, but were also clever and funny. They never took themselves too seriously, and–most importantly–their lyrics actually provided a narrative of the Christian life that I could relate to. I’ve been listening to Relient K for over 10 years now, and on long car trips I can listen to their albums one after another and hear the story of my own walk with Christ. The lyrics are poignantly human, and speak honestly about the guilt, failure, confusion, and disappointment of living in the reality of our own sinfulness, but they also manage to cling to the hope and joy that come from being loved unconditionally by God. I hear the words of the songs, and know them as my own: “a fallen man’s praise”.
It’s funny what a band can see you through–fascinating, really, the way their music can chart your own growth…map your own life. It’s music that can bring back the subtle nuances of emotions and desires and fears that carried you through the days and months of your life–so that when you hear it: you’re not just in the present, but experiencing the past as well.
So as I said, I’m walking into the gym for a Relient K concert, 10 years after I first started listening to them. Eventually, I find my sister. The music starts and summons memories of high school rebellion and falling in love for the first time; a move across the country that paralleled my transition from childhood to adulthood; and then years spent relearning how to live after a depression that swept the ground from under my feet.
Before I know it, my sister, her roommate, and I are the only girls rushing into a mosh pit filled with tall sweaty guys twice our size, and we are pushing and shoving and dancing and falling over and helping each other up all for the sheer joy of the music and the freedom and the moment. The presence of ten years is with me in that mosh pit, ten years of struggling with God–wondering where He is, and why it’s this way, and who I am and if I’m living it right, and grasping in the dark for bits and pieces of His presence–and as I’m tossed about by the momentum of the music and the moshing, I know this show is my answer. The music plays on, as it has from the beginning, and as Matt Thiessen sings his heart out to lyrics that I know by heart–all I can feel, and think, and know, and experience are God’s faithfulness and His presence. The ten years are all there and God is there in all of them, and He has brought me here–to a place of dancing and happiness and things long dead coming back to life. Joys I once thought dead, or at least irreparably wounded, coming back to me as gifts from a kind hand.
I walk out of the gym two hours later, drenched in sweat, with a bit of a shiner beginning to develop under my right eye where I took an elbow to the face. It is raining. A light, cool rain that washes over us and leaves no doubt of what has happened tonight–a cleansing, and a healing of time itself and of my heart. Water flowing from the sky, from the kind hand that always holds me.