I consider myself a person of faith, so I sought refuge in prayer that day as the television images flashed the horror. And in the quest of that faith, I went to chuch on Sunday, ready for words of hope, encouragement and comfort. I rely on my pastor for that, and he had offered such in an email earlier in the week, but his sermon that Sunday left me flat. It was about the need for "humane religion", a concept I agree with, of course, but he spent a great deal of time listing the sins of the Palestinians while neglecting the sins of Zionists who are culpable for at least some of the madness in Israel-Palestine. Anyway, it just didn't work for me. I'm sure it was a blessing to my congregation, but I needed something more, and it has taken me a couple of weeks to realize what that might be.
Like most lessons, the learning came in pieces. 10 days or so after the attacks, I sat down to watch the televised tribute show, which opened with Bruce Springsteen's "My City of Ruins." In a moment of grace, my soul seized and I cried, my hearts cry sung by none another than The Boss. My city, my heart was in ruins. Lost, scared, confused, knowing more innocents were facing the wrath of a nation enraged, and yet I could not create another response. Unsure of what my personal response could or should be, I, like countless others, found refuge in song.
The turning point - and the beginning of my articulation of my pain, came when Faith Hill sang "There Will Come a Day".
As she sang about the Father wiping away our tears, two things happened:
1. I shuddered at the reference to the Father and what to
me is not so sound apocalyptic theological thinking
using imagery that
theologically I am uncomfortable with.
2. I had this sudden and desperate longing to feel exactly what she was describing. If my city was in ruins, then what I wanted to feel was God comforting me, giving me hope and strength.
Thus, my quest, which I have narrowed down to a question of synergy.
How does a woman of pluralistic faith live a faithful life?
Since the tribute show, I have listened to Faith Hill's song over and over again. And as I listened, another song came to mind: "Shout to the Lord". I don't remember the first time I heard it, but I hear snippets frequently in a commercial for the "Songs 4 Worship" CD that is a compilation of worship songs now, my boss says that he doesn't understand why they look like they're in so much pain when they sing. I equate it to that face you get during sex. You always look like you're in pain, but you're not. So maybe that's just what our bodies do. Anyway, this song, "Shout to the Lord", has been echoing through my mind, so they other day I borrowed the CD from a co-worker and I ripped the song so I could hear it all the way through. The first time I cried. There is something so powerful about it. Something powerful, I think, about worshipping with abandon
Sometimes, when I am singing, it is as if I am in a trance. I just play the music and sing, and somewhere along the way, I forgot I'm in my car or my apartment and it just become me and the Divine. I am so blessed to have the voice I have, and I love to just sing, whether it's something like "Shout to the Lord" or "Gypsy" by Fleetwood Mac. When I sing, I can worship, and I can feel so close to God, and in these weeks, I have needed a way to really connect with God. I pray every night, and I sing whenever I can, but I needed some music that took me to God, if you will. Music that was in its own right, prayer.
The challenge for me with so-called worship music or Christian music is that the language can be really alienating to me. There is a song called "Nothing But the Blood" which talks of Jesus' blood being the only thing that can wash away our sin. That's a theological concept that scares me! A friend sings the words as "Nothing but the love" instead.
I used to listen to Christian music all the time. I love Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith; Kirk Franklin, Susan Ashton, Caedmon's Call. But when I began considering my faith in a different light, it became difficult for me to do the language. At first it was the masculine images of God that alienated me, so I would try to change the words. Then I just stopped listening to the stuff altogether.
I even thought I had thrown most of the CD's away.
Listening to Faith Hill's song, though, made me long for those songs I used to cherish but why? What was the real pull? Was it the melody, the lyrics?
I think what I was looking for was Jesus. See, for about three years now, I've been doing a lot of thinking about theology and the nature of God. I started a little experiment during Lent, and it grew. I even took an entire year off from church to kind of get a grip on my faith. Not that I ever lost my faith in Jesus, or denied Jesus, even. I just spent an awful lot of time considering the feminine nature of God, which some call Goddess, and how that theological idea fits into Christian faith, because frankly, I really like Jesus a lot. It's not just because he's the most familiar faith idea I have; it's because when I read the teachings of Jesus, I'm really intrigued by his thoughts. I'm inspired to apply them.>
So that leaves me here, listening to worship music, longing for Jesus, but longing for Goddess, too. I am more convinced than ever that you don't have to sacrifice one for the other, but I'm still not sure how it all comes together. Maybe we'll find the answer in the Zu.