Saturday, February 28, 2009


The struggles of faith weigh upon my mind to the point where when I succumb to those struggles, I feel paralyzed. One of my own thoughts this Lent is to be immersed in others. Abandon thoughts of self and then one can truly live. The paradox is timeless and true. It is not so much that I am struggling about doubt throughout the day, but when they come to mind these matters cast a shadow upon me and possess my soul as though it were me in the fires of doubt. I want to be there like the Lord who saw the three righteous men in the trials recorded by Daniel, and pull them out.

But I know too well that those journeys often do not leave me unscathed. When I go in, we all leave with charred clothes. I walk into the fire and stumble, kicking sparks up and smoldering smoke into my own eyes as I try to rescue others. Oftentimes, I realize that I need someone else to fix the mess I created.

In this current meditation, I've fixed my attention on one songwriter whose toils and confusions are played out in public for all to see. At some point last summer, I posted a video of him showing the conflict of playing one of his own songs and commented on his trial of faith. He once wrote words of praise to the Trinity, always honest about his shortcomings, but unashamed to play songs such as Be Thou My Vision. Now he will not play his own song, and his cover songs are more concerned with frailty and doubt.

What is amazing to me is that if you listen to the second song, which was composed by another soul in doubt, you still see the almost inescapable desire to praise God. The songwriter ended his set with this second song at an amazing house performance that myself and 3 others went together to see. Accompanied by no more than 31 other paying souls (and there weren't too many unpaying ones, by my count), and some great beer from Lost Abbey, we heard this troubadour, this bard, this hymnwriter, explain his struggles of faith.

It was then that it struck me again, that many struggles of conscience and faith are not what they are. Or perhaps they are what they are, but their implications and consequences aren't what we've been told that they were. Despite the weakness of our faith, it is not all about us in the end anyway. We must realize this or we will enter a spiral of despair. There is a dark night for our soul, and if we do not embrace it and struggle as Jacob once did, we are doomed.

So please, enjoy the first song which he wrote, and the second which he has in many ways adopted as his own. And when you are done with that, please take whatever praise that is genuine and within you, and do not discard it. As weak as it seems, it is not rubbish. And though it is Lent and our liturgies tend to exclude the Alleluia, I can't help but say thanks to God for any cry to Him, even from the doubtful soul.

It reminds me of another story where two friends were dealing with their own flavors of doubt. In that story, they went to a church they had never attended and met a priest who was busy gardening--trying to get the last weed pulled before saying his prayers, he hardly seemed fit to praise, to the undiscerning eye at least. These two strangers were called upon to lead the singing of the Psalms in a chant that only one had ever heard (and only a few times at that), with the third man prostrating himself and bowing before an Eastern altar. All the while, the two were supposed to keep their tempo and tune in check. I assure that that did not happen, but there were no other earthly souls there to poke fun. What the angels and saints did at the moment, oh Lord I wish I could know. Somehow, as weak as that moment was, it was just as beautiful as the most well-orchestrated service that had been planned for weeks. If sincerity was lacking in that perfectly memorized performance, perhaps the two fish out of water made an offering that pleased the Lord even more than than the 30 person choir that only sung out of a desire for applause.

But really, this blog was supposed to be about two songs. They may not resonate with every soul like Amazing Grace, but at times I wonder if every soul does need to hear words of unbending confidence. There is a dark night for every soul, of this I am convinced. Do not fear the struggle, fear the corpses which no longer struggle.

i could hear the church bells ringing
they pealed aloud your praise
the member's faces were smiling
with their hands outstretched to shake
it's true they did not move me
my heart was hard and tired
their perfect fire annoyed me
i could not find you anywhere
could someone please tell me the story
of sinners ransomed from the fall
i still have never seen you, and somedays
i don't love you at all

the devoted were wearing bracelets
to remind them why they came
some concrete motivation
when the abstract could not do the same
but if all that's left is duty, i'm falling on my sword
at least then, i would not serve an unseen distant lord

could someone please tell me the story
of sinners ransomed from the fall
i still have never seen you, and somedays
i don't love you at all
if this only a test
i hope that i'm passing, cuz i'm losing steam
but i still want to trust you

peace be still (x3)

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

1 comment:

foldreformer said...

beautifully said

I do fear the struggle
but it draws me nearer