This is the first in a series of blogs echoing our Lent sermon series on the Lament Psalms. Long considered the prayer book and hymnal of the Christian church, the Psalms contain extraordinary prayers that address the entire human experience including times of disorientation, isolation, and deep grief as well as joy, praise, and redemption. These Lament stories are often the defining stories of our spiritual formation; we hope you’ll resonate with these Lenten blogs.
I was raised in a Christian home, my mom taught my Sunday school class, my dad ran the soundboard and served a few stints as deacon, that sort of thing. We went to church pretty much every Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and if we were really unlucky, Wednesday night as well. And then once a year, the week-long Revival. Lord have mercy, the Revival.
When I was about 14, I started questioning what I’d been taught and decided that I just didn’t buy it. But, there was no way my parents were going to let me quit going to church, so I convinced them to let me attend another church in town because all my friends went there. They’d drop me off, I’d wave goodbye, wait for them to get out of eyesight and then walk down to the McDonalds and kill time for a couple hours before they’d come and pick me up in front of the church. I managed to pull this off rather effectively until I got my license and then ditching was easy.
In my early 20s, over the course of a few years and some very powerful moments of revelation, God became real to me, and following Jesus became a central focus of my life for many years.
But, I’m now 35 and I find myself once more on the disbelief end of the spectrum.
So, when Will asked me to share how I’ve seen Jesus showing up in my story, my first thought was, “I can’t do it. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
But for some reason I agreed. And that is a decision that I am glad I made.
Because over these few weeks, I’ve been pushed to evaluate some perspectives and thoughts that I haven’t challenged myself on for far too long.
And something is stirring.
You probably won’t remember them, but in the mid-to-late 90’s there was an amazing band called, “Local H.” They weren’t well known, but I stumbled upon them opening for a well-known headliner and I fell in love with them.
The internet was just starting to become a Thing, and so I did what you did at the time which was to create a fan page. Such a simpler time, the late 90s.
My site had all the resources a Local H fan could ask for. Photos, lyrics, audio; people would email me setlists and concert reviews from around the country which I would post. I got to go backstage and on their tour bus once. It was awesome.
But now, a lot of time has passed, my tastes have changed, I quit listening to them regularly years and years ago, but I recently stumbled upon the fact that Local H had released a new album. I couldn’t believe they were still making music, but I was all over it, I had to check it out.
Look. It’s pretty bad. I mean, it’s bad.
But I thought, “Bummer. This is terrible. But now I’m in the mood for some H!” So I pull up one of the old albums, you know, the good stuff. And as I was listening to these songs that I have heard a million times and have memorized every tiny nuance, every vocal, the texture of every crashing cymbal … as I was listening I realized … “This just isn’t doing it for me. This doesn’t resonate anymore.”
And it made me sad.
That feeling is how I would describe my relationship with Jesus today. He is my favorite band of all time, that I’m just not connecting with right now.
And I miss it. I miss Him so much. I want it back, but you can’t fake yourself in to goosebumps.
But I’m not walking away and I’m not giving up. Because I’ve already experienced Him not giving up on me.
That’s why I still take Communion. That’s why, even in the midst of my unbelief, standing in the Boulder Res with my daughter Clara, as Will baptized her in to something that I’m uncertain of, my heart burst open, I was so happy for her, and I wept tears of joy.
There’s a hymn that we sing from time to time here, “Come Thou Fount”, that has appeared at very specific, monumental touchpoints in our story. My wife, Laura, will tell you that God has been placing that song in those moments to assure us, and to let us know something along the lines of, “You’re on the right path. You’re good.”
I’m annoyingly skeptical and am more likely respond with, “Wweeellllll … maybe. There are plenty of explanations.”
But there is a line in that song that says,
“Let thy goodness,
like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.”
I’ve sung those words at extremely important times in my life, and while I may be uncertain about a whole lot of things, those words seem to be true. Jesus appears to have heard me sing them, and took it kind of seriously. So I may not be hearing Him right now, but I believe He’s got a line on me.