If you’ve ever traveled with a teenager, you know the fear that surged through me when my daughter announced, “I’ll handle the music on our trip, Dad.”
Ugh. We weren’t even out of the driveway, and a six-hour drive loomed before us.
“What kind of god-forsaken noise that she calls music am I in for,” I wondered.
But before I could utter any protest, she hit the play button on Spotify, and the music began just as I heard her say, “I really think you’ll like this song, Dad.”
She was right. The music I heard seized me, and it still hasn’t let me go.
“If you’re lost and you’re lonely…” the song began, and it seemed as if the words had been written just for me, or for any of the unnamed millions who know the ache that loneliness creates. And it seems these days that more people know that ache than not, even the ones who seem always to be surrounded by people. There’s something about the way we connect with one another that can leave your heart empty, that can make you feel alone, even when you’re not.
The song was by the band Birdtalker, a new group to me. Their name springs from their appreciation for Saint Francis of Assisi, who legend has it could talk with the birds. But they also admire Saint Francis because they see him as “a religious figure who doesn’t like religion.”
I didn’t know any of that then. All I knew was that their song “Heavy,” the one my daughter thought I would like, held healing in its hands, and it carried that balm into all the places within me that longed to be made whole.
If you’re lost and you’re lonely
Go and figure out why
Take a trip to your dark side
Go on and have a good cry.
‘Cause we’re all lonely
Yeah, we’re all lonely…together
Their words invited me not to numb myself from my broken places, not to ignore them by way of myriad distractions that I always manage to find. They sang of the need to make the journey into the places of pain within me. And that idea that we’re all lonely together just made sense to me.
Maybe that’s where the beginning of the end to our loneliness lies, in staying with one another not only in our better moments, but also in the moments when someone is doing their best to push you away, whether they mean to or not.
I want to see your sadness
I want to share your sin
I want to bleed your blood and
I want to be let in
Don’t you just
Don’t we all just
Want to be together
And as I took in those words, I began to consider what it might mean to speak them to someone I know who is lost or lonely, or to hear them addressed to me. Don’t we all just want to be together?
And then the song’s chorus sounded with full power, offering the simple invitation to “leave what’s heavy, what’s heavy behind.”
It’s true enough that you can’t escape dealing with heavy things. But it’s also true that you don’t have to carry them with you every step of your journey. You have permission to leave what’s heavy behind.
I don’t know how many times we listened to that song on our journey to and from South Carolina last January. Or how many thousands of times we’ve played it since. But my daughter and I found common ground, even holy ground, standing in the world those lyrics created as its melody covered us in grace.
Birdtalker’s song hasn’t let me go yet. I continue to play it, to sing it, as I make my way in the world. Even more, I try to remember the permission it gives me to leave what’s heavy behind.
And so does my daughter.
A few weeks ago, as I was leaving her room, I noticed that she had propped a white board against her doorway, on which she had written a simple reminder to herself.
“Leave what’s heavy beind.”
Each time she leaves her room, she sees that message she longs to remember, the message she had passed along to me so many months before. And a strange thing happened as I walked past her whiteboard that day. It was as if her reminder to herself became something like a prayer for me, as if she were placing her hands on my head and pronouncing a blessing over me that she somehow knew I needed to hear. And the weight of that blessing continues to make me believe that it is possible to leave what’s heavy behind.