I thought I was going to see a movie about the life of Aretha Franklin, “Lady of Soul.” I was mistaken. The viewing of the movie, “Amazing Grace,” was the most emotional non-church service I’ve ever experienced. There was a cohesiveness, a oneness, between the gospel performers and the congregation. Everyone’s soul was united. Mick Jagger (aka Sir Michael Philip Jagger) the English lead singer of the Rolling Stones, was an incognito participant sitting in the last row.
Emotions were not held back. No song was sung just by repeating the words. Each word was allowed to become “the most it could be.” When Aretha sang, “What A Friend We have In Jesus,” her sincerity shined, and you knew Jesus (Jesus, Jesus, Jesus) is your friend, too. The hymn gives a powerful, yet simple message:
What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.
Never have I experienced an unrehearsed “letting-go,” exposing one’s true feelings. This was not acting; it was true soul exposure.
When Ms. Franklin sang, “Amazing Grace,” the word “Amazing” got top billing (forever) before she went on to say the second remarkable word: “Grace.” I was mesmerized by such unique openness and sincerity. Aretha sang Marvin Gaye’s, “Wholy Holy,” while quietly playing the piano; those touching words give the whole world hope and holiness filled the church. Words we could all relate to: “People we have got to come together; we should believe in each other’s dreams; Jesus left a long time ago . . . But he left us a book to believe in - and in it we’ve got a whole lot to learn; Can’t you see us coming together.” An intimacy, amplified by the songs’ emotional power, filled the church causing Rev. James A Cleveland to be reduced to tears.
Words cannot describe the holiness that permeated that church. When Aretha powerfully sang: “Oh How I love My Religion,” it was more than obvious how Jesus had cushioned the trauma she had experienced in her life: from having her first child at the age of 12, to the death of two siblings, to the shock of her father, lying in a coma for years from the bullet shot from an intruder in his home.
Yes, I had expected to see Aretha Franklin’s biography but by watching her sing gospel songs for two days, so much more was revealed than any statistical facts of her life. Aretha is truly a Lady of Soul and, I believe, her innate essence is the best role model for turning toward Jesus for healing. Maybe you will be inspired as much as I was, try getting this DVD from the library. Romans 12:2 (ESV) “. . . be transformed by the renewal of your mind . . .” Never be surprised by the venue God chooses to encapsulate your unsuspecting soul.