For me, going to a Josh Groban concert is like Christmas… and my birthday… and an unexpected snow day all tied up with a bow.
We arrived late. Two different couples begrudgingly stood up to allow us to pass by as we made our way toward our seats. Idina Menzel was the warm-up for Josh and she was in full swing. I didn’t blame them for their disapproving looks, Idina was flashy and dynamic…but I came to hear Josh.
His music soothes me. When we’re traveling and I get overwhelmed with the crowds, the noise, the delays and inconveniences of travel, my husband will slip his head phones over my ears and play some Josh for me.
Josh introduced most of his songs with a personal story. At one point, he described how he’d been a shy, awkward teenager. He took a moment to thank all the teachers that had supported him during those difficult years. The woman on my right clapped really hard. Her bracelets jangled and her rings flashed.
She’s a teacher, I thought.
His introduction to one of his newer songs was even more serious. “A lot of attention is placed on cancer, heart disease, and AIDS,” he said. “This song is to draw attention to those that are depressed and feel like there is no hope. Depression tells you that no one cares and you can’t possibly get better. But that’s not true.”
Was it my imagination or was the teacher surreptitiously wiping her eye?
Then he sang his song titled River.
Some days I can't say why I'm feeling lonely
Some days I am too proud to ask for help
And I stumble through the noise
Trying to find some peace
A stranger in the crowd, I lose myself
It was not my imagination. She’d lifted her glasses and rested them on the top of her head. She was wiping both eyes now.
So, I walk down to the river
Where the troubles, they can't find me
Let the waters there remind me
The sun will be there when we wake
Her friends (I’d seen them talking earlier) did not seem to notice. Maybe they weren't really her friends. Maybe they were just chatting as seat mates. Maybe they don’t know what to do either.
This raging world can get so overwhelming
Looking for a meaning when it won't make sense
In my head its getting loud
Like I can't outrun this cloud
No matter where I go well there I am
Her shoulders were trembling and I felt torn. I wanted to pat her arm. I wanted to give her a full body hug. She was hurting. It wasn’t getting any better and I couldn’t even pay attention to what Josh was singing anymore.
I didn’t know what to do.
So I prayed.
Not like I should…not like my mother would.
But with force.
Do you know this verse? “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4)
It’s tempting to focus on the give you the desires of the heart portion but the two phrases are linked and Delight yourself in the Lord comes first.
In other words, I think it means that if I work to make God my source of happiness…he will grant me that which I desire.
Well, I believed that God would want me to have compassion for this woman.
So I asked him to DO SOMETHING and then trusted that he would.
And then this happened…
The lights went down.
People in the audience lifted up their glowing cell phones.
If you don’t go to a lot of concerts, it looks exactly like a Christmas candlelight service.
Josh started singing another song.
Perhaps you’ve heard this one in church…
It’s called You Raise Me Up.
When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me
The teacher leaned forward in the chair and then staggered to her feet.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be
She tilted her head back
raised her hands
and started singing.
And that’s when I had to wipe my eyes.