Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re celebrating 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore ways of Experiencing God in the Ordinary. The inspiration for our theme is the new book by William A. Barry, SJ.
A famous poem inspires us to fall in love with God, saying “nothing is more practical.” I’m not sure that falling in love is ever “practical,” but I do know that it can happen any ordinary day when I least expect it.
Falling in love with God changes a person in the same ways falling in love with another human might. It pulls me from being in an acquaintance relationship with God to an “us” relationship in which there is no superiority or subjugation but rather oneness.
I am in love when I want to be a better person for the sake of the other—not out of guilt or fear of punishment, but out of an overwhelming desire to be with the other, to be connected to the other. Being in love with God can make a person feel giddy, carefree, affirmed, invincible, bold, overwhelmed, humbled, and most of all, fully alive.
There are love songs I have heard a hundred times, but when I am in love with God, they take on new meaning. I don’t just hear them, I feel them. I understand them from the inside out. Instead of acting as background noise, these songs become a colloquy. The songwriter becomes a poet who speaks God’s love to and from my heart. A song need not be overtly Christian or ever say the name “God” explicitly, but I listen as if God were singing directly to me, and I dance and wallow in consolation. I am 50 years old, and these songs still can make me feel like a teenager overwhelmed that someone (God) even noticed me. Or they make me feel like someone married for many years so that we know and trust each other completely.
So, typical of anyone in love, God and I have our playlist of songs. Here are a few that God has sent to me:
- “Let My Love Open the Door” (Peter Townsend)—When I want to give up, my love reminds me to hang in there and stay open to doing the right thing, even when it feels hard.
- “Open Your Heart to Me” (Madonna)—I imagine this song like a music video with Jesus in the guise of a homeless person, a refugee, or a sad child, and me being too busy to notice him. It is my reminder that God is always seeking me.
- “I Would Die for You” (Prince)—I hear this as pure modern-day rock-gospel: “All I really need is to know that you believe.”
- “Conviction of the Heart” (Kenny Loggins)—This is my go-to Third Week song. When I lack the courage to follow any discernment, God is right beside me in this one.
And there are a few songs I have on my playlist that I dedicate back to God:
- “You’re My Best Friend” (Queen)—This is one of the best expressions of consolation ever, and I wallow in being with God through this song.
- “When You Say Nothing at All” (Keith Whitley)—When love is too big to put into words, this song expresses that tingling sensation when, just for an instant, I know we have connected. It invokes prayer-room intimacy.
- “Bendita Tu Luz” (Maná)—This Spanish love song is in the voice of a man thanking God for finding the love of his life, but it is my road to Emmaus love song that expresses the joy of consolation and moments of oneness with God. (Find the translation here.)
- “Tightrope” (Michelle Williams)—This song embodies the lightness of traversing a life between humanity and divinity. It reminds me that this Ignatian life is not the safest or easiest, but by far the best adventure I could ask for.
- “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You” (James Taylor)—When I need a prayer of gratitude, I sit with this one.
This playlist could go on and on. When I am in the posture of being in love with God, so many popular love songs can feel like prayers and expressions of consolation. Perhaps rather than “practical,” the writer could have used the word “ordinary.” For nothing is more ordinary than turning on the radio or downloading a love song and suddenly finding the love of my life talking to me through it.
What love songs are on your “God and Me” playlist?
When I first began exploring Ignation Sprituality some months ago, the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came to my mind. I looked it up and listened to it and was blown away, it was as if God was speaking directly to me! Words of love and comfort, balm to my soul.
I was puzzled though, I’d spent 30 years of my adult life in a very different (Christian) religion, which I had left at considerable personal cost. They had strict rules over “suitable” music and would never have approved of Simon and Garfunkel!
What if I was mistaken? But this song was like the voice of God speaking directly to me. After 10 years in a spiritual wilderness, seeking God yet afraid of being led astray again by ravening wolves, unable to trust myself, had I found Him and was this what He was saying to me?
Then I read your blog post. Thank you.
I wish you could tell me how you made it out of the wilderness bcos I have been struggling for a year now I don’t know how to move forward after the church broke me. My faith feels like its confused
Libuseng, Definitely connect with a spiritual director to walk through this desert. let the Church be the Church and let God be God. Maybe in some of the songs people have listed you will hear how you are loved and worthy and called, beyond what you have heard in the church.
oh my that makes me cry– happy tears! Trust yourself, Martina. Trust love. The Power of Infinite Love is so much bigger than any rule or restriction. The beauty of Ignatian Spirituality to me is getting to wallow in your own dance with Infinite Love, rather in in upholding restrictions of what is deemed right and wrong. Dance to the music. Sing it at the top of your lungs. Know you are loved.
40 by U2 drew me deeper into the Psalms, and knowing my Lord and savior, the lights God place in our lifes are amazing., with a thankful heart.
your dancing part made me laugh, you have cameras in my house!
Love U2! So nice to know I am not the only one who dances during prayer time!
You’ve got a friend by Carole King
Pam, I will be adding that one for sure!
Add to the playlist: “I need to be next to you,” by Leigh Nash. Lyrics: But I need to be next to you, share every breath with you, …for the rest of my life.”
Elizabeth, I haven’t heard that, but agree with the lyrics. Thanks for adding to the list.
How about Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone.” When I first started working as a new nurse I was very nervous. It seemed that every evening as drove to the hospital to start my 12hr shift this song would come on the radio. I really felt like it was God speaking to me and telling me everything would be okay.
” You are not alone, I am here with you.”
Connie, God love you for working that front line!!! Especially now! You are living that song everyday for everyone you take care of. Thank you!
Hi Lisa, I enjoyed your article.
Lauren Daigle “You Say” and “Look Up Child”
Thanks, Janet. I will look those up.
Your in my heart your in my soul…
oh yes, sing it rod!
“Haven’t Got Time for the Pain” (Carly Simon)
“Just Remember I Love You” (Firefall)
The most recent surprise was at the beginning of coronavirus when “Lotta Love” (sung by Nicolette Larson, written by Neil Young) started playing in my head. I hadn’t heard it in so long I had to look up the lyrics. To me singing “It’s gonna take a lotta love….” God replies, “Got a lotta love, got a lotta love.” I was blown away.
Music moves me deeply & clearly God uses it to communicate often, so I leave my devices’ playlists on random all the time and let God pick what He knows I need to hear. It’s astonishing how God feeds my soul this way. Many thanks for affirming the experience, even through secular music.
carly simon and firefall! perfect additions! Thanks for adding to the list!
Good piece of writing. Thanks Lisa. I feel the Magnificat could be added to any list of inspiring love songs.
Oddly I never thought of that as a love song as much as prayer. Thanks for offering a new way to experience it.
Love changes everything – Andrew Lloyd Webber
You’re in my heart – Rob Stewart
You lift me up – Josh Groban
I love that the Josh Groban song made the popular music list when it is so clearly faithbased. And you’re in my heart is exactly what I meant. Thank you!
Steven Curtis Chapman’s I Will Be Here – a wedding song but it can be God singing it to me.
Oh that’s a keeper. I hadn’t heard it. Thank you so much!
My Girl – The Temptations
All of me loves all of you – John Legend
You’re my sweetheart – The Lumineers
He has sung these songs over me in shops, on the radio and TV, in moments when I have needed to be reminded how much He loves me. I loved this article! 🤗💕
All of Me definitely hits the spot! Glad to know you ‘hear’ It too!
Hi Lisa, what a wonderful article. I would add The Story of my Life by Neil Diamond to the list, I think it clearly describes what you mention in your note. Many thanks,
That is a perfect one! I was alone
You found me waiting
And made me your own
I was afraid
That somehow I never could be
The man that you wanted of me
I have a few of my own but one that comes to mind frequently is Billy Joel’s “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” . He and Bruce Springsteen could fill a prayerbook! Thank you for sharing this!
You are so right. They are great songwriters.
“All of Me” by John Legend
“I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts
“Perfect” by Ed Sheehan
How powerful to hear “Perfect” being what God thinks of us! That is a love song to all humanity. I’m adding these to my list!
Nilsson’s “Without You”. More than ordinary.
Definitely a poetic description of desolation. Hits the empty spot in life.
you should try John Prine: Boundless Love
from Tree Of Forgiveness, one of his last songs
I somehow missed the sad news of his death. A great loss to the music family … he had a God-given gift of putting life into words and song.
what a beautiful song! thank you for adding it to my list and introducing me to him.