The soundtrack of this season...

In the wake of Aretha Franklin’s death, I find myself leaving a season peppered by her music. From soul to gospel, her songs were so much a part of my upbringing — personally and spiritually — that I am surprised to discover the influence she had on me.  

This is not about Franklin’s personal life. As with most celebrities, I know only the parts of her life that the publicists what us to know. Here, I’m talking about the feeling her music gave me. 

As I write this, I’ve spent the day listening to her gospel recordings... the songs that really defined the genre in my own life. Her version of Amazing Grace has all of the emotion that clearly defines a grace that is immeasurably fuller and richer than anything we could ever deserve — yet that is the Grace that God has provided for the asking. And Aretha Franklin’s voice defined it as she sang this song. 

In the range of her soul music, I challenge you to find one song that is hurtful, one song that has a stroke of ugliness or “meanness.” You won’t find it. Every song was about strength, love, grace. In some form or another, she communicated that sometimes, we get hurt when we love fully, but all we can do is keep trying. All we can do is walk in a strength that is required of us. When I was a teenager, Respect was a centerpiece of the way I treated people. I didn’t realize it then, but as I’ve listened closely to the message in Franklin’s music, I understand how I treated those around me with respect and expected that same treatment from them. I knew what that word meant to me... what it should mean to us. It is so clear in the song... “You need me... And I need you.” This is not limited to a man about to walk out on his wife (That’s my Blues Brothers reference of the day.), it is about every relationship you can identify in your life.  

It is funny to me that as we found ourselves saying goodbye to this Queen of Soul that made us think about this words we say to each other, about the way we treat each other, I was also saying goodbye to a season of motherhood. A hectic season that gave me time to sing R&B songs with my son. A season that gave me a chance to tell my daughter that being a strong woman doesn’t mean doing everything on your own. It was only in listening to the vast array of songs that she recorded that I found just how much Franklin’s music influenced my life and the way I wanted to raise my children.  

As I listened to Aretha Franklin’s music, I couldn’t help thinking of two Scriptures that say so much about the ways our actions and words influcense those around us. In Ephesians 4:29, Paul writes, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” I love hearing music that echoes this advice. 

I Thessalonians 5:11 continues on this theme: “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” If you don’t find yourself already building others up, I hope this reminder helps you start today.

 I don’t know the soundtrack of the new season I am moving into, but I am thankful that Franklin left behind such a vast body of work that God really can use to teach us so much about the way we should treat each other. My prayer is that the Queen of Soul was able to influence a Royal Court that uses music to reach out, to encourage, to build each other up.