If you think back to some of the deepest transformational seasons in your life, what were the contributing factors? What books, people, music or other influences informed and shaped those pivotal times?
It was my later college years that were extremely pivotal for me. I felt as though I were perched on the edge of a diving board, contemplating the miry waters below, teetering and not quite convinced to take the plunge. While I wasn’t terribly committed in my faith, I did have numerous conversations with God at the time. In the midst of this, I felt drawn to change schools and direction in my junior year. That decision turned out to be a major turning point for me.
One of the backdrops to this time period was my deep love of music. My roommate and I spent hours keeping up on the latest songs and bands, and stories that went with them. Our dorm room had one of the few cable connections, so it became the gathering place when music videos debuted. I followed a number of bands, but U2 unquestionably topped the list.
This group from Northern Ireland seemed to provide a safe place to express and embrace my wobbly spiritual life. We’re talking concerts, posters and joining the U2 fan club in 1981. For a small fee, I got occasional mailings that were likely plunked out on a manual typewriter and cut and pasted into a rough newsletter with the latest concert schedule, news about the band, photocopied pictures and some song lyrics.
The lyrics from “40” became a sort of anthem for what I later recognized to be God’s most profound work in my life. Back then, I was so unfamiliar with the Bible that I didn’t actually realize “40” referred to Psalm 40 and was essentially taken right from this passage of Scripture!
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay … I will sing a new song
I don’t know if my waiting was quite as “patient” as the Psalmist’s, but I did experience the unmistakable inclination of God hearing my cry and lifting me up. You’ll either highly relate, find it a sacrilege or think I’m goofy, but singing “40” a cappella with thousands of other concert-goers as we exited into the streets was nothing short of a spiritual experience for me. As unlikely a stage for spiritual transformation as a rock concert might be, God seems ready to use just about anything to speak to us.
I imagine some of my current theological and political views might clash a tiny bit with Bono, but I continue to admire his passion and heart and I’m thankful that God even used a rock band to draw me closer to him. An old Star Tribune clipping I’ve held on to since their ’85 tour described U2 as “a band that radiates faith.” Can’t think of a much greater honor to hold than that.
What have been the unlikely influencers in your life?