erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

My brother and I weren’t ready for it.  Who would be?  We were at a Christian concert for crying out loud.  And the band performed right after a Rockies game.  Nothing bad can happen at a Rockies game—right?

Months before, my son suggested we go to the game on “Faith Day”.  He knew my birthday would be around that time; he also knew the game would be followed by a concert from the band Hillsong.  Everyone in my family loves Hillsong, and with Poppy (my dad) and the cousins with us, the day was bound to be unforgettable.  And it was.

Despite a Rockies loss, the day started out great.  In the first inning, Charlie Blackmon hit a home run, and all of us went crazy; in the seventh, we put our arms around each other and sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  And all throughout the game, the kids danced and swayed to the music.

Eventually the game ended, and we settled in for the concert.  The stage was quickly assembled along the third base line, right in front of us.

Perfect!

People who didn’t want to stay for the concert left, and others took the open seats.

Then, after some players were interviewed about their faith, the concert began.  The drums played an opening set, and everyone cheered, rising to their feet.  My kids and their cousins joined the crowd, and I turned to my dad sitting next to me.  At 80 years old, he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of standing.

“Dad, you don’t have to get up,” I said.

He nodded, and the two of us sat in that sea of people.  We didn’t need to stand.  We could hear the music, and the sight of his grandkids singing to God was the only view we needed.

The day was turning out beautifully until just around the chorus of the first song, I heard it.

Someone was singing terribly; I mean like a dying seagull.

“So heere Iyee staaund,” she shrieked, and it was like nails on a chalkboard. “Highee in suureynder; Iyee neeed youuu, nowuu.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the source of the shrieking.  Right behind us, four people were swaying with their arms around each other.  They were pumping their fists and screaming more like they were at a rock concert than worshipping God.

It’s okay, I told myself.  Some people struggle with singing, and I dismissed it, trying to focus on the music and my family.

The rest of the song finished, and after the crowd cheered, the guitarist started the next song, playing some chords I recognized immediately.  The song was Hosanna, describing the God of Heaven as the King who washes away sin.  I took off my baseball cap as I sang.  Singing that chorus felt holy to me, even amid the squawking voices.  But as we sang, the group behind us wasn’t just singing terribly anymore.

They were laughing.

Glancing back, I could see one of them running up and down the stairs in some kind of crazed dance.

Are they drunk? I wondered, and again I strained to focus on what was in front of me.

The song finished, and shade from the stadium settled over the band.

“I can finally see all of you,” one of the band members said, “and you all look great.”

“Sooo dooo youuuu!!” one of the people screamed behind me.  Her friends laughed.

I looked over at my brother sitting next to me.  He was rapidly moving his leg up and down, like a piston in the V8 engine of a ’65 mustang.  And what really revved that engine was when he saw what I saw—the fear in his 13-year-old daughter’s eyes when she peeked back at the people behind us.

“Let’s lift up our hands to worship our God,” the leader of the band said.

The words I heard behind us next almost dropped me to the floor.

“Yeah,” one of the hecklers shouted, “why don’t you raise your f—ing hands!”

The angst roared inside me; I could feel it bubbling to the surface, and now my engine was revving too. Options ran through my head.  I could spin around and shout at them.  I could get security.  Maybe they’d care if I pointed out there were kids listening.

Nothing seemed right.

My brother was looking down at the ground clearly considering strategies of his own.  And all the while, his leg moved more and more violently.

This might be a good moment to explain that my brother doesn’t mind confrontation.  And using the words “doesn’t mind” is putting it lightly.  As a student, he once stood in front of an entire college faculty and told them they weren’t leading their students well enough.  During an airline flight a year after the September 11th tragedy, he saw two men get up at the same time and stand by the bathroom.  Without skipping a beat, he walked over to them, told them they can’t line up at the bathroom, and waited for one of them to sit back down.  He doesn’t shy away from confrontation, so I wondered what he’d do with the people behind us.

I turned toward him, and he looked at me.  He spoke no words, and there was no trace of a smile.  All I saw was a stone-cold gentleman ready to explode.


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