Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Blues

“The man on the moon
Said the earth was blue
But you don’t have to leave
To know that’s true.”

The Speed of Light, Julie Miller
I’ve been to planet earth, and I agree: the earth is blue. Beneath our carefree chatter, beneath our hand made monuments, beneath our tired, aching feet, the ground trembles with an ancient groan deeper than the deepest cave. If we pause long enough to listen, we will feel it shaking in the chasm of our soul. G.K. Chesterton once said, “He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.”

We may shout and sing and dance so loud that we can barely feel it, but the blue earth is still there. Trembling, groaning, longing. I guess that is why so much of our music is blues. Music is rhythm in time and this rhythm might just be the pulsing heart of the earth longing for redemption. Whether it’s country ballads, cool Jazz licks, old time Gospel, or classic Delta Blues, the angst is still there.

Somehow listening to blues soothes me. From the fierce intensity of Son House to the gruff yet poignant wailing of Blind Willie Johnson, the to grieving voice of Skip James, I find like spirits longing, aching for redemption. Someone said the blues is all about sex. And I would agree that many songs deal with broken relationships, but that is surface.

Beneath the surface of subjects from lost loves to dying wives to abandoned children, the blues gives voice to a pain that is deeper and older than we realize. The psalmist fully acknowledges this pain. Heman exclaims, “My soul is full of troubles and my life draws near to the grave” (Psalms 88:3). After pouring his soul out to God in prayer, he completes this lament, “Loved one and friend, You have put far from me, and my acquaintances into darkness” (Psalms 88:18). The psalm ends without resolve as the psalmist stumbles away into the shadows.

From the tragic death of Abel to the bitter stoning of Stephen, the Bible is full of heartache and loss and desperate people in desperate situations. Suffering is never denied or ignored. I fear sometimes that our modern spirituality looks to God as an escape from suffering. Unfortunately this is a fundamental denial of who we are and where we are at.

We are on the blue planet. And all creation is groaning. Beneath that desperate cry of creation is another cry—the cry of the people of God, longing for redemption. Yet we do not know how to cry. So we sing the blues. Often we don’t even realize why we are singing the blues or why we are groaning within the recesses of our soul. Beneath the cry of creation, beneath the cry of the human soul, there is another cry—a groaning that cannot be uttered in human words—it is the cry of God. This cry, this groaning, this shuddering silence reaches all the way to Eden and the broken relationship between man and God.

This cry is a prayer for redemption. From the ancient echoes of Eden to the kingdom come, this Spirit-filled cry brings the fallen world into restoration with a Love than cannot be thwarted. And this Love really does make the world go round.

As Julie Miller sings in the Speed of Light:

“The only thing that doesn’t change
Makes everything else rearrange
is the speed of light,
the speed of light.
Your love for me
Must be
the speed of light.”


Milton's old profile said...

Psalm 88 -- how blue! I love that one because, as you point out, the gloom is left unresolved. While I believe that the ultimate end of things will be glorious, many chapters end on a very dark note. The psalmist there--and you here--offer some consolation in the very fact of acknowledging that not every chapter of our lives is sweetness and light.

Pastor Buzz said...

This reminded me of a time some years ago when some friends and I were musing what "Christian" blues would sound like. I guess you could call this "Evangelical Blues." We put down some lyrics to the tune of an old Robert Johnson song that you can find sampled at the beginning of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's "49 Reasons." Here's the only line I remember:

"You better commme down to the altar/because it's gonna be hot down there."

You probably had to be there ...