Five Minute Friday: Refrain
Refrain: The part of the song or poem that is emphasized or repeated. The chorus. In other words, the part you remember. The part that gets stuck in your head.
Refrains are powerful. Consider the songs from your childhood that you still know: “Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me . . .” Or the timeless refrains that seem to be continually passed on: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Or, alas, the refrains that get stuck in your head and keep you awake at night (I won’t curse you with an example).
Refrains are the things we remember. They are the song-words that pop into our heads on repeat when we can’t seem to remember anything else. The refrain of a work of poetry is its theme, its heart. We forget sermons and books and lectures and almost everything else, but music we remember.
We have our own heart-refrains as well, don’t we? What is the chorus your mind and heart is constantly repeating? What is the theme? We can get stuck on “what if” refrains, singing those worries over and over. We can create refrains of bitterness and resentment, repeating the chorus of how we have been wronged. We can hum refrains of distraction, or greed, or jealousy, or failure.
Much of the time, these refrains play on repeat in the background, and we may not even consciously notice them. But it doesn’t take long for the refrains we sing to ourselves to become the actions of our life. Songs are powerful things.
We can choose better refrains if we want to. We can allow our thoughts to sing a different tune. The chorus does not depend on the circumstances; it depends on the truth we believe. Like the psalmist who continually declares, “His love endures forever.” Like the hymn writer who wrote one of the most timeless refrains of all: “How great Thou art.” These days my kids often sing the refrain of “Waymaker.” How I love those words of God’s love for us: “Waymaker, Mircle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the Darkness, my God, that is Who You are…”
The refrains we choose will determine our joy, or peace, or contentment, or courage, or our lack of these things. That’s why it’s so important to stop and listen to what our minds and hearts are saying. What is on repeat? What is it telling you? What truths—or lies—are chorusing around in there?
Here’s a refrain worth singing:
Whatever is true
Whatever is honorable
Whatever is just
Whatever is pure
Whatever is lovely
Whatever is commendable
Whatever is excellent
Whatever is worthy of praise.
This refrain brings us to the God of peace.
I think that just like timeless songs that stand through the ages, we will be remembered by the refrain we sing. It’s important, this song of our life. It matters. So listen carefully. Others are listening, too.