There are few things that touch the heart as much as music and in churches we use music to worship God as the church has done since its inception. However, I must admit, there are times that I can’t bring myself to sing the words to the songs that so often fill evangelical churches. These songs like “How Great is Our God” or “Mighty to Save” or even “10,000 Reasons.” Why? Because so often these songs don’t reflect what it is that I feel in my walk with God.
As a church we have lost a liturgy of brokenness. The music we sing in church seems to make the Christian life seem like a cakewalk where wanting to worship a great God is the default position of believers. And this, perhaps, is really one of the reasons I have elected to tie myself to traditional liturgy found in an Anglican Church because within liturgy there is a reminder of the full gospel, with praise in musical worship and contrition in confession, and in a reminder of the truths of the gospel in communion. The christian life is not all good, and indeed many parts are so difficult. I can’t complain about repetitive songs (Psalm 150 is an example) or short songs (Psalm 117), we do lack songs that reflect the brokenness of our souls without God, of a longing for God’s mercy as broken people, and of a seeking of forgiveness that we find a model in all over the book of Psalms.
Perhaps that is why I find some of the most obscure Christian music so striking. The Collection, a small band in Greensboro, North Carolina, recently put out a song called “The Doubting One.” It is, for me, something that I find resonates within my soul so well because it reflects how for me questions are far more easy than praise and how difficult it is to believe that which I do not see. Read and think about some of these lyrics:
Brother Thomas, did you walk away from Jesus
wondering if it was all a dream?
Did all your doubts creep back and tell you
that your fingers hadn’t ever touched a single thing?
Cause I have read that story so many times where you healed
that man and he could see perfectly again
but in between it reads that all he saw were men as trees,
and that’s all that seems to cloud my vision
Cause all the friends I know have never ever met you,
does that mean that they deserve to die?
But I heard once that you came here as love for all of us,
and not to pull the wood from out of our eyes
This, for me, is the Christian life. It is a struggle to be a disciple of Christ who we do not see with our eyes and whose existence means a reality where so many of my friends will end up lost. And yet we read that Christ came out of love. This for me is the Christian life and yes I know there is a time for those songs we sing in Church, but even though perhaps these should always be true, my heart is weak and frail and faithless. I hope then to see music in church which doesn’t just reflect a hope that may not always be realized, but also to process by which we get there. So many people in the Bible are broken over so many things, and are we really being honest in our worship by glossing over the brokenness that is still pervasive in the people that God calls his own? I think not.
Other examples of music which reflects this reality of the Christian life include Tim Be Told’s “Lament,” a song which moves me to tears because of its visceral treatment of Christian suffering. And this, I think is what we are missing: lament. I refuse to believe in a Christianity where everything is good, because if that was Christianity, then I am not Christian. We all, in our own ways, suffer from various things and when we suffer I can only say “God are you listening” for in faith I know that he does. The Church needs room for something besides happiness, and I hope in time that I can relearn which I still see so clearly in the psalms, a full breadth of human feeling and emotion in worship.