For the Irrational Season: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

For some reason Madeline L’Engle’s book, The Irrational Season, has been on my mind a lot lately. Not so much the book—which is wonderful, but which I haven’t read for years—but its title. Just the title. I feel as if I am living in an “irrational season.” A tumult of emotions that are not easy to explain rationally. A living paradox, maybe. A seemingly irrational season.  

For one thing, it’s that time of year again. The time when mothers rejoice and give thanks, as well as lament and pray. Where I live, it’s back-to-school week for most kids. Though not all. I’ve seen the eyes of mothers living on the edge, begging for Mom to Mom and preschools to start up (“What?! Three more weeks?!”). I also see the Facebook posts of moms in disbelief that their kids have somehow gotten so old: “Where has the time gone?” And . . . “Can it really be the end of summer?” There’s an irrational feel to starting school on days when the heat index is predicted to be well into the 100’s.

I’m feeling back-to-school emotions more intensely this year, I think, because 8 of our 11 grandchildren are starting in new schools this year. They are living in places far removed (either geographically or culturally) from last year’s schools. Many adventures ahead, no doubt. But also, at least for the older ones, some extra butterflies. And a lot of extra prayers from this Nana! BTW, I figured out today that we have grandchildren in pretty much every grade between preschool and 7th! Got it covered . . .

It’s not just back-to-school feelings, though. I’m feeling this “irrational season” on many levels, most of them too complicated for a brief blog post. So here’s the other thing that is on my mind (really, my heart) a lot lately. It’s that wonderful verse in Colossians that reminds us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your heart to God.” (Colossians 3:16, ESV) 

Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. How powerfully God is using all three of these in my life right now! Sometimes I wake in the night with one of my long-ago-memorized Psalms soothing my soul. Psalm 91, in which I lived when Lars was deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Psalm 139, which has marked my life all the way back to the searing pain of a medically-complicated miscarriage. “Though I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” works for Coast Guard flying in Alaska—as well as many other far-flung corners of my life. And Psalms 46 and 34, which carry deeply engrained memories as far back as my own Nana. (She had Psalm 34 engraved on her tombstone. And, decades ago, a paraphrase of that Psalm became dear in Woody’s family. It abides with me still.) 

Then there are the old hymns. Often I awake with an old hymn singing through my soul which I can’t remember singing for years. “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God . . .” “A mighty fortress is our God . . .” “God will take care of you . . .” “Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace . . .” I play old hymns on the piano (my “piano therapy”) and wonder if my children remember any of these, or if my grandchildren will ever know them. 

But there is also so very much truth to be seared into my soul through more contemporary music. My kids help me keep my playlist at least a tiny bit updated. Lately I’ve been quite obsessed with Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” And lots of Sandra McCracken. And just last Sunday our worship team played a song that was only vaguely familiar to me but which has echoed through my mind all week—Housefires’ “Yes and Amen.”

You have your own playlists. You may have your own favorite old hymns—I hope you do. And always, always, the scripture is there for you. Especially the Psalms.  Luther encouraged his friend Melancthon: “Let us sing the Psalms.” Not a bad idea for whatever your “irrational season” may be. Or really, any season at all.

Because what do these Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs remind us of? God’s promises. His promises as we send kids back to school. Or to new schools. Or, yikes!—to college. And as life takes us to all kinds of unimaginable places—both wonderful and terrible.  And, as the Housefires song reminds me continuously, “All His promises are Yes and Amen.” Indeed.

Yes and Amen.