I used to think electric guitars killed piano hymns and now I think I can hear the beauty in the black and white keys.

black and white keys

Hello from the other side. I must have called a thousand times to tell you I’m sorry. I let the smoke cloud my judgment, lost in a haze of fog machines and flashing lights and thumping bass (ear plugs required).

Don’t hear me wrong—God can meet people in the spaces filled with electric guitars. God can use Adele to sing to the hearts of the lost crying out, “Hello, can you hear me?”

But I dismissed my mom’s longing to hear the ringing of the bell choir and the strumming of the harp and to watch the stained-glass windows reverberate with the chords on the organ. Pianos died, Mom. What’s a church without electric keyboards and guitars?

God took me far away from home, stripped of my trendy church, to hear the timeless beauty of the black and white keys. Was my faith built on the name of my church, or the wardrobe of the lead singer and how good the “entertainment” was that week? Was my faith dependent on the fog machines to set the mood and stir my emotions to feel God’s presence?

Thousands of miles from home, unsure of what to even call “home” these days, why did hearing the simple melodies bring me to my knees? I could see the piano in my childhood home, mostly untouched and gathering dust, but still always there. I could see my grandmother sitting at the piano bench, again and again, hiring another and then another new teacher to teach her hands to dance on the black and white keys.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

Was blind, but now I see.

The simplicity of the black and white keys makes me feel like a little girl again, flipping the pages of my Bible just to hear the soothing sounds of the crinkling pages. I didn’t know what they said, but I knew that I felt comfort in the crinkle.

The simplicity of the black and white keys makes me feel like a little girl again, stirring my heart to the days of kneeling by my bedside with simple prayers: Dear God, Are you there? It’s me. Will you help? Amen.

The beauty is found in the sheet music that doesn’t need words because we all know the words by heart.

The beauty is found in the wooden pews and the sun that shines through the stained-glass windows. The beauty is found in the rising from the pew with an aging, crinkling hymnal to sing farewell to a grandmother who can’t sit on the piano bench anymore, but who dances to new melodies now—free of pain and suffering.

Oh, holy night. My heart and my soul can sway to these notes. I can hear “home” dancing off these simple, black and white keys. Don’t you hear the black-and-white truth in the simple breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine, blood spilled out for you and me? Will you linger with me on this piano bench in a posture that invites the holy?

Take out your ear plugs, unplug your ears, wade through the fog and turn off the light show.

When we don’t have the words to say, He meets us at the black and white keys. Drown out the noise of the world, but in a pure and melodious way. Who can deny the simple beauty? Mindlessly, or mindfully, swaying as the fingers tell a story searching deep into the heart. We don’t need words to hear the sweet harmonies, the pitch of hope. It is well…with my soul.

I’m sorry, sweet notes. I’m sorry, piano. I’m sorry that I lost your beauty and wonder in a cloud of smoke. I’m sorry that I couldn’t hear you over the drums and electric guitar.

Dear God, teach me a new song, but let it be an old song. Amen.

“O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things
from of old
what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
The praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has
done.” –Psalm 78:1-4

This post is in response to Sarah Bessey’s prompt: “I used to think ______ and now I think ______.”

4 responses to “I used to think electric guitars killed piano hymns and now I think I can hear the beauty in the black and white keys.”

  1. What a beautiful metaphor, Ashley – what a gift Thank you for this!

    1. Thank you for reading! And thank you for an inspiring prompt for so many of us. See you in April at the Festival of Faith & Writing 🙂

  2. Ashley, I loved your words here. Music does such a good job of tying us to people and places. When I’m listening to the music of my heart, the old hymns are still the ones I hear. Thank you for such a beautiful piece. Here’s a similar one I wrote about the “soul food” music I can crave. http://www.tracesoffaith.com/blog/2014/05/until-it-is-well-with-my-soul.html

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Traci! I love your connection to how these old hymns take us right back home. This is exactly what I’ve been experiencing, and I think so many others do too. I’m excited to connect with you!

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