A couple of years ago, my friend, Kathy, and I were exchanging ideas about artists or entertainers we’d each like to see. She responded quickly – Michael W. Smith. I gulped a little. Now, if you don’t know him, he is a composer, musician and singer of Christian songs (not to be confused with the Christian hymns I grew up with); more specifically “praise” music – the kind that really lights a fire under many of his listeners. I heard quite a bit of this music when I attended the small protestant chapel at the Army post where I worked in Japan. But he wasn’t my style.
Early in the spring, Kathy discovered he was going to be in Holland, Michigan, a short ninety-minute drive away. When she asked if I wanted to go, I tried to wiggle out and suggested she find someone who might enjoy it more. You see, I had sort of thrown him into the lot of televangelists and commercial worship leaders who wear too much makeup and hairspray, who over-whiten their teeth, and try to look hip in their faded-out jeans, while trying to make me feel guilty about my happiness and success. But I was basically locked in. Like a steel door with a couple of deadbolts, my mind was closed to the prospect of having an enjoyable time. This was not going to be my kind of concert.
Now let me tell you a little about my “faith journey”. I grew up in the Methodist church – pretty mainline Protestant. I was active in the youth groups, I went to camp several summers, and I worked on camp staff or served as a counselor for five years after college.
But we are not very demonstrative of our faith. I stand only when there is an asterisk in the bulletin that tells me to, I only raise my hand when I wave to a friend across the aisle during the brief greeting time (and then it’s a low/ chest high wave at that), I only speak during the hymns or a responsive reading, and other than that, I sit quietly, and bow my head and close my eyes when expected. If I get really wrapped up in the sermon, I smile and nod in agreement – that is as emotional as I get. Heaven forbid I clap.
Michael W. Smith fans are not like that.
On the first song, the tall husky gentleman right in front of me stood and spread his arms. He looked like an eagle in flight and I thought he was going to take out the people on either side. Quickly, he moved to the aisle where he remained for the rest of the evening. As the evening went on, there were so many arms in the air, I thought I was in a classroom filled with eager first grade students waiting to be called on. (Mine wasn’t one of them however.)
Do I need to tell you the concert was wonderful? Smith was warm, engaging, and comfortable. By the end of the night, the vice grip that had clenched my jaw for the weeks leading up to this was released. I don’t know what I thought I’d experience, but I was so sorry that I’d closed my mind to the thought of enjoying it…tell me I’m not the only one who does this.
I wrote that in June, 2014.
This past weekend, I saw Michael W. Smith…for the third time in three years. And it was wonderful, for the third time.
I wonder what I’ve missed out on over the years because of my closed thinking? This year, I’m giving the gift of open-mindedness to myself as a Christmas gift, and if you need a bit of help with this, just let me know – I’d be happy to give the same gift to you! I can’t wait to see what the new year brings.