Another year is ending. A new one is beginning. It's time to reflect.
Reflection is something we sometimes avoid. Whether it's due to fear of pain or simple laziness, we are prone to forget things we ought not to forget and avoid things we would do better to face.
Are you familiar with the word Selah? It's a small and beautiful word (and on a side note, it's also the name of my first-born daughter). You can find Selah mentioned three times in the book of Habakkuk and seventy-one times in the book of Psalms. It is a musical term that means to stop and hold the note for an undetermined length of time. It's an interlude. In the Bible, the author uses it to pause the voices and reflect on what has just been sung, while the instruments perform alone.
I am a singer and when I see Selah in the Bible, I think of it as the fermata that is written above the bar of a measure. When you see fermata, it means there is a pause between measures in the song. Just imagine a director holding his hands up to signify the suspension of the tempo as the note is sustained - usually in anticipation for a climatic end, or fortissimo. When we study Scripture, Selah is used like the fermata between verses and chapters as a momentary pause. It's a beautiful concept but, if I were to be honest, I struggle with Selah because, quite frankly I would rather sing without the disruption of a pause. I want to scramble for the mic and get lost in the happy music of life. Many times, though, God has another plan. Sometimes He holds up His hands to pause and forces our singing to be silenced.
The last three years of my life have felt like that; as if God was stripping all my music away. My Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 aggressive breast cancer. Not long after, my Dad began having heart issues. Then I experienced a broken marriage which led to extreme physical pain, emotional misery and spiritual despondence. Of course, as we often do, I tried to cover up the fact that my world wasn't the pretty thing I had always hoped it would be. I could pose with the best of them, professional and proper, but if you were to look inside my heart you would have found a woman who was scared, burned out, discouraged and - if I'm being honest - completely out of tune.
And angry too.
Although my lips continued to say the right things, in my heart I doubted everything I had ever read in Scripture. While externally I worked myself to the brink of collapse, inwardly I dismissed every act of faithfulness, every gesture of grace and every expression of love from the God I had given my life to. Simply put, I wasn't sure I trusted the Conductor anymore. Aren't we so prone to wander?
When trials and afflictions come and God halts our music, we can either submit to His will or we can run around lip syncing our faith. Our human nature would rather complain and we don't like the pause because, inwardly, we want to be the ones in control of the music.
Pause for a moment.
Having been through trauma and grief and having seen things I never thought I would experience, I would rather there not be an interlude because then I would have to sit down and reflect on things I don't want to think about. I would have to be still when I would rather flutter and dance, forgetting that in this grand musical of life, there must be halts and moments of stillness so the final crescendo can be that much more glorious.
Selah. Pause and remember...
Friend, remember the pain. Remember the loss. Remember the sin.
Reflect on it. Then remember the saving grace! Remember the hope! Remember the Source of joy.
Remember when God met that need you didn't even know you had. Remember when He shielded your path from that person, that place, that sin. Remember when that friend encouraged you in the Lord at the perfect time. Remember when He provided faithfully just as He said He would. Remember when your prayer was answered. Remember when that prayer was not answered and God chose to give you something ultimately better instead.
Selah. Pause and be still.
If the Lord has lifted His hands to pause your note, then put your hand over your mouth and trust that His plan will result in beauty. As much as my flesh faints and trembles, and as much as I hurt when my upbeat singing suddenly lowers and comes to a halt, I still know that He is good and that I can trust Him. You can too. So quiet your voice and tune your ear to the melody of heaven. Even when we are silenced, His music will always continue to play and joy is found when we dwell on His goodness, reflect on His faithfulness and when we give Him glory for all that He is and all He has done. Remember...
He is your refuge. Selah.
He is your hiding place. Selah.
He hears you from His holy hill. Selah. He is the Lord of hosts, the king of glory. Selah.
He is the great forgiver. Selah.
He will cast down His enemies. Selah.
He is faithful. Selah.
He gives good things. Selah.
He is worthy of our praise. Selah.
Reflect on these things as the old year ends and a new year dawns. Look back and find Him in all our mess and in our all heartache, then look forward and lean into the song of God with all its fortes and decrescendos. Close your eyes and maybe lift your hands with Him as you wait for His cue to sing again. You can trust the Psalmist.