The Wand'rings Of My Heart
When I’m running on the treadmill I listen to everything from Handel’s Messiah to The Smashing Pumpkins to musicals like Mamma Mia! to Derek Webb (obviously, and mostly his album Democracy Vol II). It’s a rainbow of things depending what my mood is. If it’s been a noisy day (I have a lot of those as a 4th grade teacher), I want something quiet and peaceful like Alison Krauss. If I really need to get out some energy it’s Radiohead or something similar. If I need to zone out and feel badass it’s definitely Notorious B.I.G. If I need to be inspired it’s Derek Webb (duh). If I need music to help me focus spiritually it could be anything. The other day I found this dude Chris Rice on my ipod covering old hymns on the piano. I think it might have been the very first thing I put on my very first ipod back in 2005.
So those old familiar chords from “Great is thy Faithfulness” tinkered out through graceful arpeggios and a sweeping tempo. I immediately felt a few emotions. One was nostalgia; a reminder of my childhood and the dusty red pews at Walnut Hills Baptist Church where I listened to my mom accompany the congregation with hymns on the piano. Another emotion was pressure to believe the lyrics and the knowledge that I don’t believe them at all. Great is thy faithfulness? Really? It seems too lofty a lyric for my doubting heart. I realized the dichotomy of my spiritual journey thus far. There have been moments where I have blindly believed the beautiful lyrics of this hymn “morning by morning new mercies I see, all I have needed thy hand hath provided, great is thy faithfulness, lord unto me.” I think because the music is so irresistible to one so emotionally influenced as I. And of course there are the many times in which the hymn has made me bitter, knowing I couldn’t partake in the happiness everyone else was drawing from it because I knew in my soul that it is a rare occasion that I believe that God is faithful.
I thought some more, because I still had like 2 more miles to go and I realized that the reason for my doubt rests on my human ability to make a complete shit storm of my life.
I like my church because the pastors get in the pulpit and they don’t pretend that life is a “great is thy faithfulness” hymn. They get up there and they cry, and they tell stories about the shit in their lives, and they show desperation to seek answers in truth and in love. I sat in church today and basically listened to a crazy, emotional, thinker with a beard, a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and large horn-rimmed glasses confess that the concept of worshiping and communicating with a God that you can’t see is lunacy. And that it really is a crazy thing to believe in something as absurd as an immaculate conception and an incarnate God. I looked up at him and realized that we are of the same stock; he and I. We are desperate doubters and addicts, unable to live without the pursuit of restoration.
Freaking out about Christianity is something that I do almost on a daily basis. I hash things out in my mind and heart about humanity, and beauty, and God, and this idea of “the church” a lot. I go back to Mary Oliver’s words a whole lot. “You do not have to be good,” she beseeches her readers. I wander off from the idea that when I’m in my most confused state, God gets down on the dirt with me and says “me too.” I wander from this like 5,000 times a day, longing for redemption that doesn’t depend on my capabilities.
And I’ll keep wandering and tumbling and groping towards it.