When the soul is held captive, songs of worship give it wings. Worship is a practice of eternity, removing all limitations and allowing your spirit to experience what God promises: freedom. The Bible is full of worshippers and worship songs that create a chance to connect with God.
I would have to imagine that my ancestors during slavery draped their freedom on each hymn that was sung in their secret places. Singing codes of escape that were entangled in the very message of hope given by God.
“Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” - Ephesians 5:19
I can hear their voices filled with heartache singing, “Nobody knows de trouble I’ve had, nobody knows but Jesus, Nobody knows de trouble I’ve had. Glory hallelu! One morning I was awalking down, O yes, Lord!"
Even in their bondage, their spirits were free, knowing their faith and hope was in Jesus.
The book of Psalms sits in the middle of the Bible providing a collection of songs and prayers that express the heart of humanity. The psalms are full of sin confessions, praise and worship, and asking God for help in times of trouble. It allows us to birth a moment of forgiveness, rejoice and most importantly, freedom from our trials.
“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” - Psalm 118:5
Even though I'm not able to envision the pain my ancestors experienced while in captivity, I can experience the freedom and hope they had in knowing Jesus. Juneteenth is a freedom bell that rings in U.S. history, and it sounds like “Wade in the water, wade in the water children, wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water,” and “swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home.”
These were their songs of freedom.
Written by Keri Pettis, director of compliance and strategic initiatives for Buckner Children and Family Services.