Singer/songwriter Sara Groves likes to travel down rabbit trails just to see where they will lead her.
These rabbit trails however are not of the hopping bunny kind, but rather are designed by God. “The core thing for me when I talk about the past year being unbelievable is all these experiences that have unfolded for Troy and I. It is the culmination of one person having that tug in their heart. I don’t know about you but I have tugs all the time and think ‘I should do that or should I do that?’ Now (if I felt that tug) I go, ‘Oh this is one of God’s rabbit trails.’ I don’t know where this thing is going to go, but I am going to do this thing because the last few times I followed through on that little tug it has taken me places that I never thought I would be. Just the sheer joy of being part of the kingdom is almost unbearable. It’s been incredible,” says Groves.
In my conversations with Sara Groves this year, one of the things that has become apparent is she defines what being a servant is all about, even though she would probably dispute that claim. Groves possesses such a deep compassion for hurting people that often her tears flow through the very melody of the songs that she writes and sings. Her love for people has a root that goes all the way back to her childhood.
“When I was a little kid the downside was that I felt everything. I know my mom said to me, ‘Sara you can’t feel everything.’ I would get overwhelmed by everyone else’s stuff. I couldn’t just let it go,” says Groves.
Although she has come along way in that area of her life, Groves seems at times to still struggle with striking a balance between being very hard on herself concerning defining ministry in her own life and just allowing grace to take over.
Earlier this year Groves took a trip with her husband Troy to Rwanda along with Garry Haugen from International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) an organization that acts as an advocate for those who live in countries where human rights are not existent, who live in slavery or worse (yes there can be worse!).
The Rwanda experience moved Groves monumentally. She observes, “I have never had an experience where my world view was so changed (and) in such a short time. The first thing exposed in my heart was a self-congratulatory attitude towards helping Africa. I had been doing work with World Vision in sponsoring children. Immediately when I was there with my brothers and sisters in Christ (I became aware) that I’m not doing jack squat for Africa.”
With her voice beginning to crack Groves says, “I see now that it is a tremendous honor to partner with these people who are suffering unspeakable (things).” Still fighting back tears she continues, “They are believers and are better Christians than I ever will be. They have been pressed in ways that I will never know. I should be washing their feet.”
Your writer needs to confess at this point this was not an easy article to pen. One cannot help but be moved by Sara Groves’ tremendous passion for ministry and compassion for those less fortunate. She has worked tirelessly done on behalf of others abroad and at home in the United States. Along with husband Troy she loaded her tour bus with supplies for the Hurricane Katrina victims and last year drove from Minneapolis to New Orleans. It is important for you to understand these things about Groves to appreciate the context of her next statements.
“The second thing (I learned) is I had been operating from a heart of charity instead of a heart of justice. Charity looks down and says I am bestowing this great gift. I had been operating in a way that was (doing just that) instead of seeking justice for my brothers and sisters,” she says.
She says, “In the song O Holy Night it says, ‘And He appeared and the soul felt its worth” Now as the tears begin to flow she adds, I want to be that kind of person that Christ lives in me (in such a way) that people feel their worth.”
I commented to her about how moved I was at Garry Haugen’s sensitivity and spirit as I watched the video Add To The Beauty “I feel extremely privileged that our paths have crossed. They (International Justice Mission) are literally setting people free and taking Christ at His Word when He said, ‘The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me to set the captive free,’ she says, and then makes an astonishing statement, “There are twenty-seven million slaves today.”
Groves reminds me of a Mother Teresa quote that she’s fond of, “You can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Groves then relates to me a reported conversation between Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard and a group of students. The students pressed Kierkegaard with a couple of questions concerning how they should live their lives and his response each time was, ‘You should seek the Kingdom of God’.
She points once again to Rwanda and the continent of Africa. “Sometimes we do need to work together and Africa is a great example, but God is not laying it on one person’s heart. He is laying it on the hearts of thousands of people. She then points to the efforts of people such as Darlene Zschech who recently spearheaded 100 Days of Hope (www.hoperwanda.org) in Rwanda. The tremendous undertaking and ministry to bring relief to the people of Rwanda was begun this past spring and covered the same 100 day period in which more than one million people were the victim of genocide in 1994.
Groves also points to Saddleback Church’s efforts led by Pastor Rick Warren. With the blessing of President Paul Kagame, Warren is leading an effort to not only to bring sustenance to Rwanda, but Christ. On the www.purposedriven.com website the plan is described as, “A massive effort to mobilize one billion Christians around the world into an outreach effort to attack the five global, evil giants of our day. These are the world’s biggest problems, affecting billions, not just millions, of people: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.”
Groves’ songwriting is a reflection of the rabbit trails God is leading her down and how those journeys are changing her life. “I used to say this song isn’t about me but it was. I am (now) in every one of them for sure. On Add To The Beauty I am in all of those songs,” she says. Her songs today talk not only about world issues, but about the struggle to continually find yourself within the context of a loving marriage and how God works through all of that. The songs express her need to feel she is doing everything that she can as a mother to her two sons.
As any truly creative painter, musician or writer will tell you, what separates the good artists from the great ones is the capacity to love passionately, feel pain intensely, shed tears without restraint and laugh from deep within your belly. That is what you find in Sara Groves’ music. She doesn’t write songs just because a good hook or melody will sell more records. She writes songs that she believes in and that bare her soul.
In the past Groves has struggled with feelings of guilt for living a life that while not exorbitant by any North American standard would be considered luxurious in some countries. She says she has finally come to the place in her where life where, “I am just beginning to understand that I shouldn’t be ashamed that I have all of these resources. Instead I hear God saying, ‘I put you there for a reason. To what end have I given you these things? It’s an exciting time for Troy and I because we find ourselves saying, ‘What next? Take it all. This has been the most unbelievable year ever.”
Groves gives much of the credit for the success of her ministry to hubby Troy. “What he has done from day one, (without his contribution) I would not be doing music. That is not just lip service. I would not be doing this if it were not for him,” she says.
Although she penned the song a few years ago it now seems more fitting than ever to link Groves with her tune, I Just Showed Up For My Own Life. I do not know whether Sara Groves is doing great things or small things, that is for God to judge but I can tell you she is doing all things with great love.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.