Thursday, 12 January 2012

A Legacy Poured Out: Jars of Clay

"If our hearts are turned to stone, there is hope: we know that the rocks will cry out..." Jars of Clay, Shelter

In a generation where scores of people turned away from the faith of their fathers, music has become increasingly prolific. It is now - more so than before - a popular way to show people's deep yearnings. Is it surprising that we emerge in droves behind acts like these? The coincidence between growing people and the popularity of some bands is profound. Some musicians have artistry so riveting, so compelling that they convincingly evoke the spiritual.

What would happen, though, if you found a group of people that held to both the faith of their fathers and the sonic canvas? Heaven can't be brought to earth, but can you be lifted into lyrical poetry, to - as G.K. Chesterton once said - "get [your] head into the heavens"?

Perhaps U2, Switchfoot or the Parachute Band has done something like that for you - for me, it was a band known as the Jars of Clay that gently nudged me towards a spiritual journey. One that was resplendent with wonders upon wonders.

Signs Amidst My Wanderings
Now, for Christian readers, I want you to be aware that I know this - that we can't rely totally on bands for our spiritual lives. Rich Mullins put it well when he said:

"It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, 'I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything.' Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts.

"I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to should read the Scriptures." (1997)

Still, the influence of the Jars of Clay on my life has been phenomenal. Perhaps it was the mix of pondering delight and sombre hopefulness in their lyrics. Perhaps it was the range of music styles, stretching from elegant acoustics to whimsical sing-along rock. Much of their music fell like cool water, helping to stir a befuddled and dozing soul away from his nightmares. Deep questions can be answered, but the most satisfactory answers are often riddles, not straightforward sentences. And it was the Jars' music and poetry that kept the embers of my listening ears alight to those riddles.

My meaning would probably become clearer, if you think of the musicians that have had a deep impact on your life. Granted, not every musician that has influenced you replicates the same feelings and thoughts that the Jars of Clay built into me - but the process can be similar.

How did the Jars of Clay take a confused teenager and point him towards maturity? Songs such as the heart-felt prayer Something Beautiful, the refrain of hope in This Road and the gritty wisdom in Boys (Lesson One) were not only beautiful - they also contained a wholesome goodness that continues to melt like gentle breakers on the soul.

I'm Not Out to Sell the Jars
All of this leads me to what I mainly want to tell you here.

If you have had a similar experience to mine, I am very glad for you - we would have not only one, but a myriad of precious experiences! In listening, pondering, singing and dreaming over beautiful tunes, you see. What more should I say?

However, if you have not followed artistes or bands that can inspire and embolden your heart in wholesome ways, I would strongly encourage you to look for them. In a world with no lack of people exploring the aesthetic, there is a surprising lack of musicians that are led by genuine passion and integrity.

That is not to say that there aren't many of them. It does mean, however, that many people will always yearn for music that is simultaneously good and beautiful.

By Dan C. with No comments


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