“But I think there’s a God and he hears either way
And I rejoice, and complain
Lift my voice, I was made
And somebody’s listening at night
With the ghost of my friends when I pray
Asking why did you let them leave
And then make me stay
When you know my name and all of my hideous mistakes
I rejoice, I rejoice,
I rejoice, I rejoice”
- Julien Baker
Have you ever had that moment when you’re fumbling around on YouTube or Spotify and come across an artist or song that instantly changes your life?
Julien Baker did this for me with her song, “Rejoice”.
Everything about it tore me up and then mended me together again as the melody was inseparable to the emotion of somehow finding hope in the dark waters of deep sorrow and pain. It was psalmic in its honesty and comforting in its beauty. Experiencing this as an individual was momentous in and of itself, but I did not feel the weight of its glory until I was able to witness it in person.
Baker recently graced Phoenix with her presence and after procrastinating to buy a ticket, I fought against all odds to get into the sold out show. I won and I am ever so grateful that the odds ended up in my favor. A kind stranger who I’ll most likely never see again gifted me his extra ticket with no strings attached moments before she walked out onto the stage. I shoveled my over to the bar just before she took up her guitar and hushed the crowd with a voice that could melt the coldest of hearts.
As a worship leader, I rarely get to simply attend a church service. Don’t get me wrong, leading my congregation in worship is undoubtedly one of the primary ways I feel closest to God, but it doesn’t come without its struggles and exhaustion at times.
Julien Baker probably has no idea, but she led me in worship that night.
It was an absolute other-worldly experience, to the point where I found myself weeping as her music resonated in the deepest part of my soul and then drew me further up and further into my understanding of God’s love.
Like I said, I had heard this song before and it moved me, but not to this extent. Not until I experienced it in community. Mind you, this community was about 100 people crammed into a small bar sipping on Hamm’s and IPA’s, but we worshiped together. Complete strangers joining in on a song that connected all of us regardless of our differences. In a place where I knew no one, I felt as if I were known by everyone.
I was at church.
Julien was my pastor. Her song was the sermon that connected ethereal wonders with the down-to-earth, nitty-gritty, sometimes-life-leaves-you-feeling-like-shit-but-there-is-always-hope-to-be-found realities. The communion wine was the beer in my hand and the bread was the guy standing next to me singing along. The benediction came from my stranger-friend who offered up his other ticket when he said, “I hope you enjoyed the show, Rick. Have a good night” just before vanishing out the back door.
I left that night feeling inspired. I was empowered and encouraged to continue to pursue all the good, true and beautiful things that God has in this world. Because they are endless as he is endless. Just as my daughter will never know the depths my love goes for her, I was reminded of how much God loves me. That he listens to me even when I am complaining, simply because he cares. That he still knows my name and shows me grace when all I can see are my hideous mistakes.
And like Julien, because of Julien, I will rejoice.