Over a recent lingering conversation, a dear friend asked me how I’m feeling through pandemic-induced social distancing.
In that moment, not yet mandated to six feet or more, but still in the spring air of her front porch, rocking chairs slightly varying our distance yet still within kindred connection, I lifted my hands up, and my response was, “Suspended. I’m feeling suspended.”
Like an unresolved chord in music, like trapeze artists in mid-air.
Suspended chords – “sus” in contemporary mode – are these deliciously unresolved chords that, if left that way, leave the listener.
They look like this in musical dialogue, leaving the listener momentarily suspended.
So, a real-life suspended chord finds you in a dark theater. Suspense racing sinister, surging to a cataclysmic fall; a cliff reeling chord that does not release tension. Heart pounding, spirit stretched to rubber-band breaking, and the chord is eerily. Unfinished. Incomplete.
A fermata acts in a similar way. It looks like this:
An umbrella arc with one dot beneath. Musicians know to pause and watch the director. To wait. To breathe. To inhale and exhale.
Notes, eyes, hearts postured for the baton. Waiting for the Director’s downbeat.
For resolution, for completion. A fermata is a pause of unspecified length over a note or rest – that is to be lengthened by an unspecified amount of time.
So, there’s a suspended chord – no resolution. NO resting place and sense of completion. And over it sits a fermata. For which the composer expects you to pause. Ponder.
Social distancing is a suspended chord with an indefinite fermata.
Suspended unto Selah – found 71 times in the Psalms and 3 in Habbakuk – a suspended sanctuary. Selah sanctuary.
Psalm 3 captures Selah essence – to pause carefully in the resting, to ponder and weigh the meaning, to praise in waiting wonder.
1 O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
Pause, Ponder, Praise in the tension of foes and their questioning voices.
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and He answered me from His holy hill. Selah
Pause, Ponder, Praise in the LORD’s shielding strength, His glory and strength to suspend my head, to hear my voice, to answer from heaven.
Fearing His greatness in a holy fermata.
5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon Your people. Selah
Pause, Ponder, Praise in sustaining rest through His suspended chord, belonging in His salvation, trusting His blessing.
The Lifter of your head, heart, mind, soul-imagining, being lifted up and held to worship, to wonder, to weep, to be wrapped in God’s winsome, forever-love. Suspended in His Word!
Upon downbeat, motion resuming, action consuming, notes fly forward. Your hands are fixed in His Directing measures and the music resumes.
But re-fix the fermata. Linger in this rest a while longer. Let your heart remain suspended.
How will life’s melody be different, and how can the rhythm be altered to capture Selah-sanctuary for our souls? What is our Director’s heart, the One who composed every breath, understands the suspended tension, the held breath, exhale, and the timing of His downbeat forward? Longing to know the notes He is writing into our waiting, not wanting to miss the underlying themes that will write the rest of our way.
What will we learn in this Selah sanctuary – in a suspended pause, ponder, and praise perspective?
With His fermata over your soul, consider Psalm 62:5-8
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah
What is your Selah sanctuary hope while waiting?