erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

Someone had to do something.  The obnoxious laughing, the cussing was too much.

My brother’s 13-year-old daughter looked back from her seat in front of us.  She could hear the heckling just like everyone else crowded around us, and she was afraid.  Her wide eyes gave her away.

The hecklers seemed right out of college, and somehow, mocking us was fun for them.

A few thousand people were worshipping God at Coors Field.  My brother and I brought our families to experience something sacred, something precious, like an exquisite dinner using Grandma’s fine china.  What could go wrong at a Christian concert?

Apparently, a lot.

Some drinking 20-somethings—sitting right behind us—came barreling into that precious time like clumsy elephants, smashing the china and pooping all over our meal.

When they shouted, “Yeah, raise your f-ing hands,” as we lifted our hands to God, adrenaline pulsed through my body.  And if I was upset, my brother sitting right next to me had to be fuming.  His head was down, his leg shaking like a piston in a V8 engine.

His wife, Kari, leaned over.

“It’s okay,” she whispered, putting her hand on his leg.

One of the hecklers behind us shouted.

“We better go after this song,” she said, laughing, “or we’re gonna get assaulted.”

“But this is our last chance to get on the jumbotron,” another shouted.

The song slowly ended, and one of the band members started talking.

“In a crowd this size,” he said into the microphone, “it’s possible some of you haven’t heard the good news.”  He explained that Jesus made a way for us to be clean, free of shame.

“And He’s here now, ready to offer you His love,” he said.

The people behind me weren’t laughing anymore.  They were listening.

And as I listened, like the wind blowing through that stadium, there was a rush of God’s spirit moving through my heart carrying the reminder of a verse.

“The Lord will fight for you;” came the words.  “You need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

That was God’s solution.

“Be still, Erin,” I heard Him say, and I sat back, letting the hecklers go.

One of the band members started introducing the next song.

“This next song will be familiar to most of you,” she said, “no matter what church you go to.”

One of the voices from behind us interrupted.

“Even if you’re gay?” she shouted, and a few of her friends laughed.

The worship leader on the field couldn’t hear her, and nobody around me said a word.

Audrey—my brother’s daughter—looked back again, but somehow the air was starting to clear.

All I could think about was brokenness.  We were all broken—the people behind me drinking and desperate to get on the jumbotron, all the people filling that stadium, and me sitting in my seat.

The instruments were set down.  Then, with a voice like warm water on a cold day, the worship leader started singing into her microphone.

“Oh Lord, my God,” she sang, “When I, in awesome wonder. . .”  And gradually, the crowd started singing with her.

With the pauses in the song, especially with no instruments playing, I braced myself for more heckling, more shouting, but there was nothing, and the song continued.

“Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee. . .”  And the chorus came pouring out of all those voices.  ”How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”  People were singing with lifted hands.  My daughter and her cousin Audrey closed their eyes, lost in the sweetness of that moment.

Then came the second stanza.

“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in.”

The words echoed off the walls of Coors Field.  It felt like all of Denver could hear the sweet sound of that crowd.  And then, the unimaginable happened.

They were singing.

No more laughing, no more screaming.  The people behind us were singing along.

“That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

I thought about what it meant for the people behind me to sing those words.  And then it hit me.  God loves them.  Duh!  They’re much more than annoying, drinking 20-somethings to Him.  He knows their names!

The song ended, and just like that, the people behind us left.  With all their crazy dancing, shouting, laughing and cussing, nobody had said a word.  They mentioned the possibility of being assaulted, but from what I saw, they didn’t even get a smirk.

And my brother did nothing!  Even with all his experience confronting college professors and potential terrorists.

A few days later, my brother and I talked about the whole experience, and then my brother said something that fit all the pieces together.

“Erin, I felt like God was telling me to let them go.”

“Me too,” I said, and I told him about the verse from Exodus—“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  He certainly fought for me that day, and I left with peace.  But my peace at a concert wasn’t all God was fighting for.  When my brother and I thought our fight was against those drunken hecklers, God fought for them.  Like my brother’s wife, He calmed my brother and I, and then He did what we couldn’t.

Those 20-somethings never got on the jumbotron for the world to see like they hoped, but there was a God who saw them with crystal clarity, much better than I did.  He saw their rejection, their insecurity, and their hunger to belong.  He saw all of it, and He gave them His wonder in the music, His hope in the message, and His grace in the people around them who did nothing.

In a world full of labels and division, the hecklers behind us could have faced something much different than what actually happened.  But not a word was said to them.  Not a punch was thrown.  They walked into that stadium expecting a fight, but as they walked out–with all those voices still singing–they carried with them the undeniable evidence of God’s love.

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