Sia: Modern Psalmist

Music has the power to be a warm blanket, a mirror or a jubilee. Sia has given me language for prayers I could not pray, truths I could not see and joy I did not know how to express.  

“I am small and needy,
Warm me up,
And breathe me”

Sia’s Breathe Me was psalm to me. The honesty and self-loathing in her lyrics made me feel I was not alone.  There was no single moment, or intention, as I listened to her sing, but her words became my prayer. I was too embarrassed for my own words.  Newly-wed, I was ashamed at myself for the depths of my depression.  I had not left the loft for days. I know now, that after years of moving forward on my own, I felt safe to feel the emotions I had submerged for so long. I had someone to care for me.  Back then I couldn’t see this grace.  

You did not break me…
I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart

Ten years later, Sia’s video for Elastic Heart pierced my heart.  

In the video two dancers, one adult male and one young female, dance inside a cage.  The tension is thick as they scream and abuse each other. Ultimately the young girl escapes, while the male is trapped inside. She attempts to pull him to freedom through the bars of the cage but is unable.  Resigned, he sinks down to the ground, his eyes completely vacant.

I saw my father and myself.  

My childhood was a frightening one as my father was emotionally and psychologically abusive, in the home and then after my parents divorced, he stalked me for years.  It left me with scars, as I struggled to think clearly, to continue to love, to survive.  Years later, not justifying but understanding, I realized my father’s abuse had been a result of his own untreated mental illness.  I escaped, learning how to protect and distance myself, but he was still locked inside.  

My faith is what carried me through those times as God took the place of an earthly Father.  He protected me. He showed me what a loving, healthy Father looked like and in Him I found freedom.

I took and I took and I took what you gave
But you never noticed that I was in pain
I knew what I wanted, I went in and got it
Did all the things that you said that I wouldn’t
I told you that I would never be forgotten
And all in spite of you

Sia’s latest track is Alive.  This is an anthem.  A battle cry.  Her barbaric yawp.  She’s survived and now she celebrates.

It’s an anthem for my life too.  In spite of the barriers my family had put in my way. I put in the work: therapy and school.  I surrendered: to surrounding myself with healthy people and to God. The depression that gripped me in those early days of marriage are for the most part gone.  The childhood trauma left scars, but not open wounds.  I see now where these were a grace. Pain that I went through that made me, yes stronger but also more adept at helping others in similar situations. Pain made holy.

I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m alive
I’m alive

Sia stretches her voice to the very top of her register.  She sings with everything in her, her voice breaks but she still meets the note and you can’t help but cheer when she does.  Because you know.  You know what’s it’s like to work hard and still be here.  You know what’s it’s like not just to survive but to thrive.  

I feel that elation, now healthy, happy, with a joy that feels like running so fast your feet begin to lift off the ground…like you’re soaring!– and you are so grateful.  In our moments of need, we whisper help to God.  When He saves us, we cannot help but shout with joy—THANK YOU!