When I was growing up there were a couple of movies that would air on TV about once every year. One was The Sound of Music and the other was The Wizard of Oz. As a child, both of these movies fascinated and excited me. Not only were they filled with interesting visuals and imaginative plots, but they featured some of the most enduring songs of the twentieth century. One of those songs was the famous "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It has been recorded dozens of times, especially as a jazz standard, but its initial appeal probably had a lot to do with the times in which it was written.
The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939 when the world was in economic and geopolitical turmoil. The Great Depression lasted throughout the entire decade of the 1930's. War would soon destroy the continent of Europe and would later draw the rest of the world into conflict. People were understandably feeling desperate and anxious about what tomorrow might hold. The song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was like a beam of sunshine amidst a dark cloud of uncertainty. Some day I'll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me. These lyrics sparked my imagination as a child, and I can only imagine that it did the same for those watching in 1939. Maybe someday this suffering and fear will be gone. I'll be somewhere safe and wonderful and permanent. In a sense, the singer is longing for a world that doesn't exist. She is longing for a safe haven—a heaven.
Music has a way of not only expressing thoughts of grandeur and wonder but of making those thoughts seem possible and real to the listener. As the writer C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” I believe Lewis was on to something. The fact that we long for places where there are no tears and no evil, where disease is absent and death is only a faded memory suggests that maybe there is more.
Many people are hurting now. Many more will likely suffer in the coming months from economic or physical afflictions. No one knows what will happen in the future with this virus or with the economy, but we long for a return to normalcy. I can't wait to get back to seeing friends and freely going about my life, but if that is all there is I don't think it's enough.
There's something else that happened in 1939. My mother was born. She was a loving mother and a caring teacher for several decades. A few weeks ago though she lost a pretty short battle with cancer. The grief we feel over her passing is real, and I still have pangs in the middle of the night when I remember something about her and then recall that she is gone. But I don't believe that is the end of her story. I have a certain hope that I will see her again. I believe I will see her again because there is One who overcame death and who offers that same victory to all who will believe in Him. That person is the only one who could possibly defeat death, the God-man, Jesus Christ.
The same God who created all of the beauty and good in this world offers us a place "over the rainbow." Some will scoff and others may ignore it. But I saw it in my mother's face. I saw it in her actions, her selflessness, her unwavering hope. She believed deeply in Jesus and His ability to right all the wrongs including the ones we have done ourselves. I'm also banking my hope on Him. Some day I will wake up where the clouds are far behind me, and I'll see Jesus' face. And then I'll turn and see my mom. And that will be a moment to savor for a long time.