Saturday, February 02, 2008

Who We Are Instead

Are you ever struck by the lyrics of a song in ways not intended by the artist or even supported by the lyrics themselves - by a phrase or a combination of different phrases pulled from the song? Of course you have.

There's a terrific song by Jars of Clay titled "Trouble Is." Here are the lyrics:

My wings don't sail me to the sky
On my own these wings won't fly
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Can't find no rest for my soul
Can't find no rest on my own
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Chorus: Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead

I keep runnin' the other way
My heart ain't built to stay
My heart ain't built to stay
And the world just ain't that way

My heart ain't built to stay
My heart ain't built to stay
Jesus told me so

(By the way, even if you aren't a Jars fan, you'll love their album Redemption Songs. And if you like the feel of it, you will probably also enjoy Who We Are Instead.)

What strikes me recently about this song, which I never seem to tire of, are the phrases, "Can't find no rest for my soul" combined with the chorus, "Man, the trouble is we don't know who we are instead." Restless souls without an identity, without a home. That's what is striking to me. Some of this resonance is due to my own history, recent and less so - my own path. Some due to choices and paths friends have recently made.

Let me briefly recapitulate my ecclesial journey before I discussing anyone else's: Fundamentalist-Evangelical, Evangelical, post-Evangelical, Emerging-Post-Modern, Catholic. I was lost in recent years. In danger of being truly lost, I've come to realize. Perhaps not irrevocably, but truly. Lust, cynicism, arrogance, and much more were surely destroying me. It is in looking back at my being post-Evangelical and Emerging that the Jars song hits me so profoundly. I knew what I no longer wanted and why, but, trouble was, I didn't know who I was instead. I was restless. I still, according to St Bono, hadn't found what I was looking for.

As I was emerging, I sloughed off authority after authority - institution after institution - in favor of what fell in line with my own thinking (even though my own thinking remained as it always had been, mostly orthodox). And the result was further restlessness. I have seen friends wrestling with the same restlessness right into disbelief. I have seen other friends wrestle their way into something with form, but no substance, no power. Others into heresy. Most into further division and schism. I began to despair. I had created a world in which I was king, and I came to realize that I did not know how to reign rightly. Nor could I ever learn.

But there is a remedy to restlessness and despair. It is humility and obedience. In Catholicism I found authentic authority born out of and given by the only authentic authority, Christ. And I found home in submission to this authority. And in doing so I have rediscovered freshly the One who speaks with authority.

St Cyprian says, rather loudly, No man can have God for his Father who does not have the Church for his Mother. In extremity, this quote can be misapplied in our age as it was spoken in another. But the truth of the matter remains: God has placed the fullness of Christ in his Church (Ephesians), and it is the Church that is the foundation and pillar of the truth (1 Timothy).

This post, I suppose, is a kind of plea to some specific people. I'm not naming names. Most of those whom I have in mind do not even read this journal. Though I have some specific people in mind, you are probably not him or her. Regardless, here is my plea: There is solace in Christ's Church, protection from sin and redemption in sorrow. There is pardon and peace. There is a King. There is a Father because there is a Mother (because of the Father). And there is Christ-with-Us - parousia, now and not yet.

I understand that my Catholic zeal can come across as triumphalism. I don't intend for it to, though I have been surely guilty here. There is one Church, and I love her.

One final thought, for a friend whose particular journey grieves me: God is love. God is life. There is neither without him. Just as one cannot love God without loving his brother, so one cannot love his neighbor without loving God. You think it is otherwise, but you are mistaken. I am praying for you, brother.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Your last paragraph could have been written to me about five years ago. Take heart that your friend is probably taking the path that he must. Perhaps it is through rejecting God right now that he will truly find him.

That was certainly the case for me.