The church I attend places a high value on art, creativity, and congregational participation in the worship experience. There are many opportunities for our members to share original poetry, responsive readings, essays, and songs during the course of the service.
Today I read the following personal essay prior to the sermon as a part of our worship service.
Drunkardâ€™s Prayer (6/15/05; edited 3/10/06)
Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist of the band Over the Rhine canceled their national tour a couple years ago because the stress of their working relationship was taking a toll on their marriage. They stated in the liner notes of their most recent album, Drunkardâ€™s Prayer, that they needed time to figure out if being together was something they were still committed to.
â€œWhen we came home from the tour,â€ they wrote, â€œwe bought two cases of wine and decided we were going to put a bottle on the kitchen table every evening and start talking until nothing was left. The idea was not to get plowed, but to talk face to face deep into the night.â€
After a long hiatus from this album, I discovered it again and played it in the car during a long drive to a friendâ€™s house North of Seattle. It had been a long, difficult day, and I almost canceled my time with her. As I listened, I felt the tension of my stress receding into the tenderness of melody and song, and for the first time I actually heard the words being sung. To the untrained ear they sound like beautiful love songs â€“ lyrics like â€œI want you to be my love,â€ or â€œIâ€™m gonna learn to love without fear.â€ But when you listen closely, the songs speak of commitment, redemption, and steadfastness in the midst of struggle.
But then again, perhaps Iâ€™m moved so much because Iâ€™ve been there.
Several weeks ago in a fit of bitter anger, I told my husband I didnâ€™t want to be married to him anymore. I said it with hurtful vengeance; with my rigid finger thrust into his face. I knew the words would sting, that they would tear him down into a defeated mess of weakness. I knew, because it was not the first time heâ€™d heard those words. Bryan had been married before, and those words were very familiar to him. I had cut him in the soft place where his armor could not protect him.
What is it about hurting that makes us want the others around us to hurt as well?
I think of a cup of water that, as itâ€™s filled, reaches the top and spills over the edge. Water is non-discriminatory â€“ it soaks into whatever is lying around it. As my cup of bitterness overflowed, it deteriorated and dissolved the relationships closest to me.
I think also of the verse in James about the tongue being a small rudder that steers a very large ship, and I know that my words nearly ran my familyâ€™s ship aground.
In just a few short weeks I have had the ugliness of my sin exposed, and I saw the bitterness that spurned my hurtful words. And then, Christ washed it away. He covered my sin with his blood so all I see now is the hope of joy and reconciliation â€“ and this is what I find beautiful about Believing.
Religion says God will fix us, but Christ says I am arrogant and stubborn and must let go of my anger.
Religion says God will make me feel better, but Christ says I need to humble myself and ask Bryan to forgive me.
Religion says I deserve to be happy, but Christ says we are children of grace who have been given a new voice to praise the Most High God.
In my â€˜religionâ€™ I expected Bryan to be perfect, which is why I love the words to this OTR song titled, Who Will Guard the Door.
You were the hand that I tried to take
You’re the decision that I could not make
You’re the religion that I should forsake
You were the story I tried to tell
You were the savior that tripped and fell
Beautiful dancing infidel