Therapy and Repetition

Fun fact: my mother was a music therapy major in school, but the profession of working solely with special needs students was too much for her, so she became a music teacher instead.

I think working with a majority of special needs children overwhelmed her because her heart was so big she wanted healing for anyone that struggled.

She always told me that music was special. There was something about it.

Music was what she used to teach me not to be afraid of the dark…music was what she used to teach me scripture…that taught me not to be afraid.

Over and over, lesson by lesson, note by note.

I believe there is therapy in the repetition in music. Much like physical therapy for an injury or counseling for mental health…there is healing in the repetition. It’s an exercise, an opportunity to work out whatever it is that needs to be worked out.

When a song repeats, it’s a reminder of the message that’s being conveyed. It’s a chance to internalize what’s being communicated. The therapy comes through the working out of the message.

At my home church the Sunday after mommy passed, we sang, “Death was Arrested.” I had never heard it before but I believe that song was God’s gift to me because He knew I had stuff to work out. Through that song, He gave me the gift of repetition because every. single. time. I visited my home church, that song was in the worship set. Every time. There’s therapy in the repetition in music.

Through that repetition God showed me that when we are absent from the body we will be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) …and so because of Christ, when my mother’s life here on earth was arrested—stopped—ended—her life truly began. I learned that through the therapy that’s in the repetition in music.

Sometimes, it’s not just repeating the song, it’s repeating the words within a song. From the first word to the last, there’s an exercise. We have an opportunity to take the words to heart and apply them.

I used to be so offended when my friends would complain that gospel music was, “too repetitive.” Gospel music comes from an African American heritage and the repetition was a part of the richness of that history. Slaves would sing songs working out in the fields, songs of freedom and fortitude that would encourage them to live one more day despite the present circumstances. And it was through the repetition of the words, the verses, the songs, that they committed God’s Word to memory, sent messages to each other about escape routes, and found the will to live.

In Exodus, when the Israelites were escaping years of slavery by the hands of the Egyptians, they found themselves up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his army hot on their heels. With seemingly no way out, the Israelites cried out to God in fear and Moses said to them, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).” They were completely surrounded by impossible circumstances, and they were told to just be still and let God fight for them.

That’s the message God’s been teaching me in my music therapy. There’s a song called, “Surrounded (Fight my Battles),” and it repeats the same words over and over…through that, I have learned that in the times when the circumstances around me see insurmountable and I am completely incapable, the Lord will fight for me—I need only to be still. My fight is the battle to be still, to stop trying to fix things, save myself, spin my wheels, and find a way out. My fight is the battle to be still and trust that the Lord will indeed fight for me.

There is therapy in the repetition in music.