I love singing. I think that’s what kept me in church through some confusion, hurts and challenges. I didn’t always understand the sermons. I wrestled with theology. I wrestled with some people in my heart. But there was always the music that grounded me. I remember that I quit Sunday school as soon as they stopped singing and I had to start interacting with peers I didn’t really know. So I sang with the adults and dreamed of one day being on the stage.
Being a musician as a career has always been a kind of secret, kind of impossible dream. It’s super hard to make money unless you hit it big. Lots of pressure, don’t know where to start. And I constantly think I’m not that good. All the other girls got solos in high school choir. 3rd place in the North Island singing festival. Good enough for a fun hobby. Good enough to impress a few people. I’m not satisfied with that though.
One of the reasons why I chose nursing and then teaching as a career as that it is a very practical way to help people and make a living. Pretty much guaranteed a job. Singing always seemed more like a selfish dream. I envy friends who forsook the “practical” jobs and actually made their way as artists. I cheer them on while thinking I could never do that.
On the BC day holiday this year, Forest (my husband) and I were enjoying ourselves at Pier Park in New West and this elderly guy struck up a conversation with us. When I told him my name was Melody he replied, “Do you know what a song is? It’s a message. You are a messenger. Your name comes with a responsibility. You have a message to share. Oh, and you and your husband should have lots of kids.”
Forest and I get the “you should have lots of kids” line quite often. One of our wedding gifts was 12 pillows with a card that said “for your 12 children”… but this messenger thing was new. He said it with such sincerity and urgency. As if my name was not just a pretty coincidence, as if my music ability was not just for a hobby, but that my songs and message are an important part of my purpose in life.
I am a song writer but I don’t spend hours composing. They are most of the time spontaneously downloaded into my head. Usually I hear the tune first and then the words come.
The first time I found a new melody was while housesitting. I was fiddling around on Ann’s piano and my fingers suddenly picked up a tune and then the words came out of my mouth. It was almost as if I was the instrument and someone else was the composer.
I just finished watching a movie called Soul Surfer. It’s in the cheezy Christian genre, but unlike the other cheezy movies this one is based on a true story. Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer who is absolutely passionate about what she does. When she was a teen she almost not only lost her passion but her life when a shark suddenly bit off her arm. Soul Surfer shows her painful hopeful journey back to abundant life. Before the shark attack her passion was only surfing. After that attack she realized that her surfing was a powerful message of hope to the world. hmm that sounds cheezy. sorry.
I was fighting back tears during the movie because I can relate to that story. My arm wasn’t torn off by a shark but I was wounded in a way that affects way too many people in our world.
In 2004 I was singing a new melody on the beach in my neighbourhood. Basking in the evening summer sun, pebbles, sea and woods.
Moments later, I was attacked and assaulted by a guy who was younger than me but much stronger. I was only a few hundred meters from my house where my parents were watching an old video of me singing by the ocean. The thick trees surrounding us made my cries impossible to hear until I managed to walk home with a bloody nose and a shattered soul.
Bethany and I were both attacked while doing something that we love. Something that is a part of our being. Both of us have faced the temptation of giving up on dreams and resigning to a permanent victim status.
My greatest temptation has been to make the attack a core part of my identity. In some ways it seems plausible. I can use my story to fight for justice and women’s rights, which can be a good thing, I can focus on what I have lost and the physical, emotional, spiritual scars of trauma. I can get a lot of sympathy.
I was thinking about all this as the credits of soul surfer scrolled up the screen. And the question came, “how many times was Bethany’s accident mentioned as she went back to surfing?” “What was she focusing on?”
The shark was long gone but the surf board remained. Not just for her but for the kids in Thailand after a devastating tsunami. Bethany helped the kids overcome their fear of the water and love it again.
I was able to meet the young man who hurt me after the sentencing. I was able to forgive him and pray for him. I released him in my heart to follow whatever path he chose and move on but I didn’t release myself to move on.
A dark shadow remained behind all of my joys and successes. “The attack” “The story” clung to me and I entitled it the most significant event of my life. Every time I would start a friendship with someone I would think “should I tell them?” “do they know my story?” Every time I felt upset about something even years later I would think it’s because of the attack.
A missing arm is pretty obvious. My scars were a lot deeper.
I received a lot of good counselling, a lot of love, a lot of prayer. Some medication for a short season, a lot of rest and good hard work, a lot of laughter and music.
It has only been recently that the event has become smaller in my mind and heart. It is no longer called the most significant event in my life. On my fridge I have a picture of when I was baptised at seven years old. That was very significant.
A little over a year ago, I wore my mom’s wedding dress and married a beautiful loving man. That was very significant.
During my first year of marriage marriage was my dream and being a house wife. But that was not fulfilling. I began to feel empty and lonely and a little disappointed. All of my life I had heard of fairytales where you ride off into the sunset with your love and the story ends. But my story has not ended. I get up every morning with a fiery passion in my heart to do something, a dream to follow, a song to sing, a story to tell. I am living the “american dream” a new car, a house, a husband… because I wasn’t feeling fulfilled I thought “a baby!” “a baby will make everything better!” I have spent enough time with tired moms to know that’s not true at all… I do look forward to having babies but they won’t fulfill everything.
I am a journey of finding Melody.. That Melody that Yahweh wrote in my heart. Bethany Hamilton did not find her hope by looking within but by looking up and out and then finding out she fit in the picture.
Last night I was scrolling through facebook and felt so empty. Sometimes it is encouraging! But last night I felt like I was outside my friends’ houses looking in their windows into their lives while not really living myself.
I know that the purpose God has for me is not about saying the right prayers or doing the religious tasks to try to make it to heaven and escape hell. It is about here and now. His Kingdom is here and now. His love is here and now. Jesus gave his life and rose from death so that I can give life and live in his power. He is raising up an army of people that will act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him. Who will cherish the beauty of the earth and protect it. Who will stand up for the widow and the orphan. The outcast, the left out, the raped and abused.
I am so thankful that I am alive. That I am a child of God and the evil one cannot harm me, cannot destroy me.
My hope is that when I do see Jesus face to face he will say, “well done good and faithful servant, you are a Melody in my heart. An instrument of my love.”
I want to use my music to set captives free and be a messenger of hope and joy. I have a huge heart for girls in the sex trade and hope that somehow I can help them. I have a huge heart for people who feel like they don’t belong, like they don’t matter, like they are unlovable. I felt that way.
I start taking piano lessons again next week. I am no longer afraid to pursue my dream of being a musician. Being a musician doesn’t fulfill everything either. Jesus put the dreams and passions in my heart and as I pursue them I pursue him. His presence alone is everlasting joy.
“The Lord will surely comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places;
and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness shall be found therein,
thanksgiving, and the voice of Melody.” (Isaiah 51:3 King James version)