We gathered together in one room, a sea of faces, a collision of lives, a symphony of cries. We gathered together and with bated breath we waited. We waited for the moment when everything would come together, when our hearts would soar because we would know that we were known and understood and never alone. We sang and we spoke and we longed for more. We felt in those moments that the desires of our hearts, those that we were hesitant to admit to ourselves, were finally being brought to the light.
And I wish we had been gathered with God’s people, and I wish that in those moments, it was God who we heard. It wasn’t, though. It was a band – Twenty One Pilots – that we had gathered to hear, and I couldn’t escape the nagging thought that this would never be enough. This night, this music, these musicians, could never satisfy forever.
There was a girl behind me and as soon as the lights went down, her arm lifted into the air and she began to sing and dance and scream. She was caught up in what was happening but out of the corner of my eye, I saw the cuts that littered her arm and I desperately wanted to tell her that music can help, but it cannot save. I wanted to tell her that this night would bandage the wounds for just a little while, but that in a few weeks she would feel alone again. Maybe not even a few weeks.
Another girl had shuffled her way to the front of the crowd, and as the opening act played, she didn’t crack a smile. I dubbed her Grumpy, and it shocked me that even when Twenty One Pilots were on, she didn’t smile. She just got a more intense stare, and held her phone in one hand, filming every damn second of the show, and raised her other arm. Occasionally she reached out and caressed the speaker that was near her, a look of awe on her face. Tyler made eye contact with her once, and she fell apart. She wept like she was the apostle John just after he saw Jesus in Revelation. And she never quite collected herself again.
They cry for salvation, but there’s no saviour to be found in that place. There’s no saviour to be found in the music and no music can take away the ache that we feel forever. They cry for salvation, and over the blast of the music, I desperately wanted them to hear the whisper of the God who loves them beyond measure. I desperately hoped that they would leave this place, elated from the music and the unity found within it, and out into the streets where in the quiet after the storm they could find something that lasts forever – the saviour who promises that He will make you thirsty no more.
Music is beautiful. We gathered together in that place and there was something special there, as there always is at a gig where people are screaming the same words and feeling like for once they are truly understood. But in that place, we so often find ourselves crying for salvation, and there’s no saviour to be found.