Meeting the Rising Road

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

-Traditional Irish blessing

Have you ever found yourself in a thin place? A place where the mundane fades away and you feel connected to something holy and magical?

I encountered a thin place when I attended a Tenth Avenue North concert last week. I’d known about the concert the whole summer, hearing about it on a Christian radio station I listen to from time to time and seeing posters at church. Audrey Assad’s name on the advertisement was what really drew my attention. She’s my favorite singer. (More about that here.) That made me want to go. And yet doubted if I should. I thought I perhaps should save money instead to help pay for my student loan. I also didn’t know if I’d enjoy myself going alone.

The week of the concert I was all set to miss out on the event. Then I changed my mind. I’d spent the previous weeks thinking about serious subjects and reading about vulnerability. I just wanted to have a good time. And when else would I get a chance to hear my favorite singer and another band I liked a lot?

So a Friday evening I sat in a church balcony and sat waiting for the concert to begin. Smoke machines made the place a bit hazy and mysterious. It reminded me of attending plays in England, stepping into the realm of performance where anything could happen.

The opening band was Rend Collective Experiment. I’d never heard of them before. Turns out they are a group all the way from Ireland! That perked up my ears. My favorite time abroad was the week I spent in Ireland. I had not expected to hear beautiful Irish accents, and then there I was hearing Irish people talk and sing. They jumped and danced around on stage with a myriad of instruments. I clapped in time to the jig, just like I’d done on an traditional Irish music pub crawl almost 2 years ago. Songs about God with the flare and enthusiasm I remembered hearing in the UK. It was a welcome memory.

When Audrey Assad came out to sing next I couldn’t believe she was right there. I’d first learned about her music the spring of 2011 when I was sitting in my small room on The University of Exeter campus. I was both longing to go home and trying to cling to the dreaminess of being in the UK. Something always resonates with me in the messages she puts to music. Her music is beautiful and delicate, but packs so much emotional strength and honesty.

At the concert she sang about struggling to sing happy songs and about wishing to love with her whole heart.  When she broke out into her song Restless, I couldn’t keep from crying. It is a song I listened to repeatedly in England when homesick, tired, and confused. And I’d been feeling restless this past summer too.

Things switched gears when Tenth Avenue North came to the stage from quiet and contemplative to loud and theatrical. Colored lights blazed, energy was high, and guitars were loud. It was exhilarating. I wasn’t so familiar with their new music, but I’d catch a lyric that spoke to me. That is what I looked for: a message in the words sung and spoken.

And it wasn’t just about an experience. It was about connecting and knowing that we struggle with things and that’s okay, because we don’t have to be held captive by the things we struggle with. That was great to hear after wondering about my shyness and life’s uncertainties. Through music, song, and story, the audience and the musicians connected and grew a bit.

My favorite moment was when the lead singer ran up into the balcony with his guitar and said he wanted to reconnect with the living room worship feel that they once had. Quietly, he invited us to sing along. When the notes to Hold My Heart began, a shot of recognition seared through my chest. It was the very song that I had cried out to God when I was the most homesick abroad. And I cried again.

The concert continued. More songs, more stories, more moments of connection. It was a beautiful evening of my past experiences coming together into one moment. I was deeply moved and grateful.

It was good to be reminded that out of struggles can come great stories.

It was great to be touched again by things that meant so much to me, to see that they still mean a lot to me.

I’d been feeling a bit down for a while, and maybe even a bit hopeless. But I encountered a thin space and realized I wasn’t alone.

It felt like I reached out to God and for a while I could feel Him actually hold me.

So last week the soundtrack of my life, of my time abroad, and of some of my lowest moments came to meet me. Those most pressing, lowest moments are great opportunities for thin spaces, for cherished memories to be formed, for blessings to be said.

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