Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pearl Jam and Heavenly Worship

My ears are still ringing from the PJ concert I experienced only a few hours ago. A late night meal and several hours of much needed sleep are all that separate me. The more I contemplate the concert, the better it gets. PJ played with so much emotion, skill, and passion it is hard to want to go to any other concert - ever. There is no way another concert could ever measure up. 

I became a PJ fan in the early 90s because of my quirky step brother who told me about these cool bands featured in his magazines. He turned me on to such bands as Green River, Nirvana, Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and others with connections to each other. These connections appealed to me because they were unique and I wanted to be unique. No one else in my circle of friends cared about these bands or their heritage. The stories of these bands gave me the uniqueness I wanted and an outlet for the issues I was dealing with.

PJ grew out of these bands and their story is my story. I don't mean to say they took the same path as I did. Our paths are probably as divergent as any could be. PJ, however, spoke - and sometimes screamed - on my behalf at a time when my voice was not developed or heard. At a time when even I didn't know my voice. They were angry and hurt, but hopeful. I had anger and pain and needed hope. They weren't my sole source of hope, but they were part of the puzzle. Looking back, I see how their music resonated with the life I was living. A life with pain from early childhood and confusion in adolescence. 

This was more than a concert to me. It was a journey into my past and a renewal of my present. More than anything, PJ's music and the concert in Phoenix, allow me to connect things.

They allow me to connect my pain to my healing. Everyone's childhood includes pain and disappointment. It is what makes us who we are. PJ songs were playing in my ears during that pain. I've since processed much of that pain, forgiven, and moved on. Hearing the same songs over 20 years later helped me take stock and see my progress. I am thankful for how far I've come, but the memory of the pain will never go away. In fact, I don't want it to. After all, it is what made me who I am.  I have a new appreciation for the words of the PJ song, Present Tense:

you can spend your time alone redigesting past regrets
or you can come to terms and realize you're the only one who cannot forgive yourself
makes much more sense to live in the present tense

They allow me to connect my confusion to my clarity. My 15 year old ears couldn't process what I felt alone in my room. My older ears hear these songs and feel what I felt and understand now what I couldn't understand then. I understand life was confusing. I understand I was scared. Most importantly, I understand this is normal...even expected. It is clear now that things aren't supposed to be clear. That isn't how life is and that's okay.

They allow me to connect my adolescence to my adulthood. There are few things in my life now that were there when I was in high school so connections to my past in my present are valuable. I am an adult now, but sometimes it seems like the few fleeting years since childhood are all that separate me from the teenage boy finding solace in music. I am still that boy. I still find peace in powerful music funneled into my ears. It is injected directly into my soul like a drug and it makes me calm. It is who I am. It is who I will always be - as an adolescent and as an adult.

They allow me to connect my solitude with my community. I spent many of those confused adolescent years alone. Alone in my room. Alone at my school. Alone on the bus. Alone with my thoughts. Alone with my fears. Alone in my pain. Alone. Seeing PJ in concert allowed be to connect my aloneness to the aloneness of thousands of others. I am still alone in many ways, but I am not alone and alone.

They allow me to connect my past to my present. Teri (my wife) and I went to the concert together. We have known each other since 1994, but my adolescent pain was felt before meeting her and marrying her 4 years later. To be sure, my adolescence has certainly impacted our marriage, but this was different. The PJ concert was like taking Teri on a time machine ride to see the broken kid I was...and still am in some ways. It helps me let her know me even more. This final connection made the concert truly perfect.

I'm not writing this to add another review to the list of reviews for the 11/19 PJ concert in Phoenix. I am not a critic after all and I haven't been to enough shows to have credibility. I am also not writing this to make a case for myself as a PJ super fan. I'm nowhere near a super fan. I know this because I met some at the concert. This wasn't their first concert like it was mine.

I am writing this to make a larger point. A point that stretches well beyond PJ. Beyond the songs that have meant so much to me. Beyond the lights and noise. Beyond the perfect experience the concert trip was. My point is simple and, I believe, profound. 

All the authentic excitement, passion, love, pain, healing, and fun of the PJ concert - even in their intensity - are only a shadow compared to what we are made for. I'm not taking anything away from the concert. Quite the contrary. I am making the point based on the concert's perfection. We were created to honor God together. We will unite our voices one day when we are freed from the beauty and pain of this world. One day those who seek God will see Him face to face and know Him. We will raise our voices and hands together just like some of us did at the PJ concert, but this time it will be to glorify God. Attending this concert reminded me that this world is beautiful and good and the promise of the next builds on the beauty and pain of this world...only it is perfected.