One of the best parts about being a musician, and a coach of other musicians, is that I get to hear music all day long. Every song, genre, melody, and lyrical phrase rings out as I work through my day. If you find yourself in my office, singing a familiar tune that you heard on the radio, chances are you’ll hear me asking this one pressing question: “What does this song mean to you?” You see, I am a huge believer in the power of words because, without an understanding of what you are trying to communicate a true connection rarely takes place. This is exactly what happened as a young boy came to me with a rather unique anthem – a song called “Pompeii.” Here are some of the words:
And the walls kept tumbling down in the city that we love
Grey clouds roll over the hills, bringing darkness from above
But if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes,
Does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
So, what is the meaning of this song? Perhaps, some of you are familiar with the story of Pompeii. If you haven’t heard it, let me give you a brief overview:
Pompeii was a beautiful Roman city. However, during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius the city was destroyed. Some historians estimate that around 20,000 people called this town their home. Can you imagine waking up one morning, going through your normal routine only to hear the earth beneath your feet violently shake until everything you know and love comes to an end? This is a story about loss. This is a story about tragedy. This is a story about the unexpected becoming reality.
If you are reading this today, you are assumedly on solid ground and so, the idea of Pompeii might seem fictional. It would feel very far removed from any personal reality to me as well, except I’ve actually been there. My husband Noah and I walked the streets of the lost city called Pompeii just a few years ago. In fact, it was rather surreal stepping foot in the forsaken ghost-town! No noises can be heard, no business is being conducted, no culture is being created because…. no one lives in this city anymore.
Now, for those of you wondering how the city of Pompeii ties into your spirituality…let me explain. Destruction is all around us. Even if you claim to live in a safe neighborhood with white-picket fences, evil can come at any point like a thief in the night. It is a terrible reality and the Bible clearly tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Yet, to anyone who has suffered loss, of any kind, you have probably learned that life is full of Pompeii moments – moments where life caves in on you and you are left sorting through the rubble of what used to be. In these fragile moments, God can become your dearest friend or your worst enemy. You can blame God for the heartache that occurred or cling to Him as the only remaining hope. In all honesty, I have done both. The reality is still the same regardless of what path you choose, but the long term effect of choosing faith, or bitterness, can be more damaging than the initial disaster. Perhaps you can relate to the story and song of Pompeii in a metaphorical sense – the thing you loved is gone (a person, a dream, a personal item, etc.) – the life you built is turning out to be full of unexpected twists and turns. Your optimism has been replaced with fear, depression, or unbearable pain. God sees where you are and He wants to meet you in the middle of the collision with His perfect grace. This doesn’t mean that your “Pompeii” is magically fixed overnight, but it does mean that you have the choice to rebuild.
The saddest part of the historical Pompeii story is the city was never given a new beginning. Hundreds of years later, you can walk the streets and feel the forsaken heartbreak of a once vibrant place. Our lives, sometimes, remain incomplete for years too just like Pompeii. Perhaps some Roman people set out to recapture the spirit of Pompeii, but seeing all that was lost in one single day was more than they were prepared to face. Maybe your life seems to be carrying that same fate – you have the best intentions but a poor outcome. God’s heart is breaking for you beyond what you can imagine because He has come to give you life, abundantly. It would be like hundreds of laborers ready to work and all the money, in cash, needed to rebuild Pompeii was just waiting to be claimed but no one ever came to collect.
Don’t allow your pain to define you. God wants you to come and collect on the ‘more’ that He has in store for you. Here is a great verse to commit to memory, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43: 18-19) Whatever your “Pompeii” day was – God is bigger and you are not a lost city to Him. My prayer for you is that your “Pompeii” marks the start of something new, something beautiful, and something worth reconstructing.