“The old familiar story told in different ways; Make the most of your own journey from the cradle to the grave; Dream your dreams tomorrow because today, life must go on
But there’s more to this life than living and dying, more than just trying to make it through the day; more to this life, more than these eyes alone can see, and there’s more than this life alone can be.”
The above lyrics are from Steven Curtis Chapman’s “More to This Life,” the title track to his 1989 album.
I discovered this song probably sometime in the mid-to-late 90s. I was heavily into contemporary Christian music then, and this song resonated with me. It remained in my top five favorite songs right up until I walked away from Christianity (and its music) more than five years ago.
Recently, this song about how there’s more to life than just living started to resonate with me again, but for very different reasons than before. The song’s overarching message – presented in the song’s bridge, of course – is that Jesus is what makes life complete. While that is certainly not my theology, the rest of the song is a powerful reminder that there is more to life than the day-to-day mechanics of simply existing.
That’s a message I need right now.
I’m so wrapped up in my career that, in some ways, it feels like my job has become my religion. I took on new responsibilities a month ago (managing a small team of direct reports) in addition to my full-time duties (human resources investigations), and I’m working long, tiring hours. The moment I get up in the morning, my second stop after brewing coffee is to open my work laptop, connect to the company via VPN, and get to work. I’ve logged in as early as 5:20am, and I am always online and present no later than 7am. I wrap up my day around 5:30pm and, once dinner is out of the way, I’ll check my work email a few more times prior to going to bed. (Bedtime these days is between 8:30 and 9pm.) On my weekends and – I’m ashamed to admit – even during Shabbos, my mind is on my work even if I’m not physically working. I’m planning out my schedule, making mental lists of people I need to interview, thinking about those problem cases that require assistance from our legal team, etc. It’s never-ending, I don’t sleep well, and work holds most of my thoughts.
In summary, I am consumed.
I try not to complain because I know that I am blessed. I am compensated very well, and I have incredible health insurance, and there are a thousand blessings that have come from my 8+ years with this organization.
But… life just goes on. Day after day. It’s the same. I pass myself coming and going. I feel sad and slow and tired. I just move from one day to another and sometimes they blend together. I feel excitement about very little, and hope is fleeting at times. Part of it is work’s fault, part of it is the never-ending threat of COVID, part of it is how fractured our country has become, part of it is my ever-present companion: grief, and part is fear of and for the future.
So when I stumbled on this song again, after many years away, a few weeks ago when I was going through old music files, I hit play and the lyrics hit me hard. “There’s more to this life than living and dying; more than just trying to make it through the day.”
It was in one of those moments where I’d listened to the song for about the 30th time, when I was exhausted and frustrated and Hashem* felt ten million miles away from me, that I closed my eyes and cried and prayed. I haven’t prayed like that in a long time – freely and almost a stream-of-consciousness, not even really sure what is coming out of my mouth kind of prayer besides my truth and stress and honesty – but I asked Hashem how I could feel closer to his divine presence, and how I could find hope in a life that felt more like existence than living. The answer I got back was not shocking at all because it was an obvious answer, but I heard the words in my head so clearly. “Rachel, the Torah*.”
Such a simple, obvious answer for a Jew!
But since that moment of tearful, begging prayer at 1am, I have been spending time reading the Torah. I have my beautiful copy of The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary, plus three other Torah commentaries that I read each week, to ensure that I cover that week’s Torah portion in detail. Some weeks I’m better than others at reading ALL of the commentary, but I try. I don’t pretend to be a biblical scholar, so I need the sages to help me understand what I’m reading. But still – I’m there.
To be honest, I don’t feel all that better yet, but I’ve spent a lot more time reading the Torah and the Tanakh*. For the first time in a long time, I feel connected to the kadosh* again. And this Jew has a song about Jesus to thank for it!
Here is a live, very dated version of the beautiful “More To this Life” by Steven Curtis Chapman.
Here’s a more modern version!
- *Hashem – a name for G-d; it literally means “the name.”
- *Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew bible.
- *Tanakh – the Hebrew bible including the Torah
- *Kadosh – Hebrew for “holy” or “sacred” (depending on which source you’re looking at)