Just about everyone has an iPod these days, so when I talk about the setting, “Shuffle songs,” most people should know what I’m talking about. The beauty of this setting is that it takes you through your entire music library in random order. The irony is how few people actually appreciate and use this setting to its full extent.
There are many ways to access songs on an iPod – artist, album, song, shuffle. Humor me while I meticulously describe the process we all know so well. Let’s just say I want to hear some Coldplay. I can scroll through my artists until I reach the “C’s,” find and select Coldplay, and then choose from the three albums I have. Or maybe there’s that one song I always have to listen to when I pick up my iPod – let’s say “Where are you going?” (DMB). I can search for the artist, album, or son title to hear my song. The problem with hand-picking each song, one after the other, is that unless you have a preset playlist, you have to have a new song in mind at the end of every song played. This is where “Shuffle songs” comes in.
My problem is this, however: when I don’t know what I want to listen to, and choose to shuffle through my music library, I inevitably end up having songs that I don’t want to listen to. A good friend once told me that you may not always know what you want, but you definitely know what you don’t want. So we sift through our “shuffle” looking for a song we don’t know we want yet, and before we know it, twenty something songs have gone by without a chance.
I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want. I think our sinful nature takes this same approach to life. I don’t know who I want to marry, or when I want to for that matter, but I do know that I don’t want to be alone. I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my degree after college, but I sure know what I don’t want to do. We play this game all the time – we don’t know what career path to take, but we’ve already decided the ones not to take. We don’t know exactly what we want for our children, but we know precisely what we don’t want for them. When I look at a menu, I usually don’t know what I want right off the bat, but I quickly eliminate what I don’t want. It’s just like choosing to “Shuffle songs,” but then deciding to control what you do and don’t listen to.
To compare this to life, I relate someone who has not placed their trust in the Lord to someone who hand-picks each song in succession on their iPod. They are in control of their lives from one decision to the next, creating their “playlist of choice,” if you will. As soon as we choose to believe in the Lord we have selected the “Shuffle songs” setting. We no longer control the songs coming up next; we do, however, have the option to skip a song, cut it short, or go back and repeat. This is where the problem lies – unlike an iPod, God’s “list of songs” for your life is not random. It is perfectly purposed; each one has its place for a divine reason. When we look at the song He’s given us and choose to skip it, we are not trusting that He is good, and therefore we are not letting Him be sovereign in our lives. On the same note, when we choose to dwell on or repeat a certain song when He’s designated an end and a new beginning, we are not trusting His will in our lives. Until we let the songs shuffle through as they come, we won’t know what we’re missing.
This isn’t to say we should feel guilty when we skip songs while our iPod is on “shuffle.” In fact, I’m doing just that as I write this. If we do it with the Lord, however, we miss out on the blessings and life that He has for us. Another good picture of this is our hands. With our hands, we give and receive, we work and we play. As long as our hands are open, not only can we give and receive freely, but also the Lord can give and take away as He chooses. My temptation is when the Lord gives, to close my hand around that gift or blessing in an attempt to secure it for myself. This seems like such a great idea because then I won’t lose the blessings I already have. I realized, though, that although a closed fist secures what’s inside, it is unable to receive any more from the Lord as well. In order to receive from Him, I must be wiling to let Him take.
My desire is, then, to not decide ahead of time what I want and don’t want. With open hands I want to let Him give and take as He pleases, and with an open heart, I want to sing the songs He gives – no skips, pauses, or repeats.