I’ve always been jealous of people in bands.
A few years ago I was walking out of a hotel in downtown Chicago and noticed a group of guys my age unloading suitcases out of a van. Each of the guys was wearing tight jeans and V-neck t-shirts, and each of them had facial hair.
They might as well have been wearing a sign that said, WE ARE MUSICIANS.
I leaned over to the guy I was with and whispered, “Those guys are in a band.”
Without hesitation, my friend said to one of the alleged musicians, “Hey! Are you guys in a band?”
“Yeah,” the bearded troubadour confirmed.
“What’s your band called?” my friend asked.
“Augustana,” he said.
I did a double take. I liked Augustana, but more importantly I knew that they were on tour with Counting Crows, one of my all-time favorite bands. I was now invested in the conversation.
I did the obligatory “I-really-like-your-music” bit before I asked, “Are you guys here with Counting Crows?”
“Yeah,” he said, nice enough to still be talking to us. “We’re all playing the Taste of Chicago festival later today. You should come.”
Yes I should, I thought.
So later that day, I ditched my buddy (who was not at all interested in going to Taste of Chicago) and went to see Counting Crows and Augustana play the festival.
There were several times during the Counting Crows show that the members of Augustana came back out onto the stage to join in on a song. At any given moment there were up to twelve or thirteen musicians on the stage, each playing an instrument or singing harmony, each contributing to the musical whole.
They played several cover songs together, including Van Morrison’s “Caravan” and Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” Those songs, that have always been good, sounded simply amazing played by this collection of musicians.
There is a reason why I’ve always been jealous of people in bands. It’s not the musical talent (although it is a little bit) or the cool rock star swagger (I cannot wear skinny jeans). No, the real source of my envy is that a band is a perfect picture of what it means to contribute to something bigger than yourself.
By himself (or herself), a guitarist or a drummer or a singer can make beautiful music. However, together, twelve or thirteen various musicians, each playing their respective instruments or singing their respective parts, can make something bigger and fuller and more powerful.
It’s one thing to listen to Bob Dylan sing “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar. It’s a whole other thing to listen to the members of Counting Crows and Augustana breathe new life into that same song.
(Aside: I recognize that lots of artists do a whole lot with only a little bit. Some of the best musical experiences I have ever had were with a small group of musicians, so I understand that this analogy breaks down pretty easily, but I’m trying to make a metaphor here. Cut me some slack.)
It feels good to contribute to something bigger than yourself—to be a vital part of a larger construction.
This is what it means to follow Jesus. We are invited to participate in something much larger than ourselves—to play alongside other “musicians” as we strive to contribute to something beautiful.
We find a church, we join a small group, we invest in the lives of our friends—we do these things because we are traveling through this life with other people, and our calling is to walk alongside them.
To follow Jesus is to understand that we are communal beings and then to lean into that reality.
We share life with other people because, as God says in the book of Genesis-
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)
This passage is not about marriage—it is about the nature of human beings. We are not meant to be alone.
So what do we do after we begin to follow Jesus? We find other people who are on that same path, and we begin to journey alongside them.
We learn to celebrate when others celebrate and to mourn when others mourn.
We learn to contribute to the lives of others.
We learn to carry the burdens of our brothers and sisters, making difficulty easier to bear and making triumph feel more joyful.
In short, we learn to join the band.