I bought Taylor Swift’s new CD within moments of it’s release.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, but I know a local Pastor (who’ll remain nameless) who listens to Taylor when he’s having a rough day. So I think I’m in good company.
In case you’re living under a pop culture rock, Swift’s album “Red” sold over a million copies in the first week. Which is big news in the music industry. It puts her in the ranks of Whitney Houston and the Beatles “1” release.
Which is shocking and surprising because she is a 20 year old dominating the music industry and infiltrating our lives with her heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics about being 15 and getting dumped.
Breakups, revenge, heartache…you name it, she writes it and sings it.
I was pondering all this this week – the men I know who hum along (or sing along when they think no one is watching). The grown women (ahem, myself) who bought her album. And I realized I don’t really relate to the story behind any of the newest songs, any of them.
But the emotions are universal. She is brutally honest, and probably over-shares (especially, if you asked any of her exes), and maybe we’ve never been there, but we’ve felt that. She writes with a rawness about the things we’ve all felt – and I think that is what is skyrocketing her songs to the top of the charts.
More than just writing about the pain though, she doesn’t tie her songs up together with a happy ending. I mean, some do I guess, but a lot of them just live in the pain or the hurt. And I think we all need that from time to time. To sit where it hurts and let it hurt without anyone making it better or trying to fix the unfixable.
I’m currently studying Ruth and Esther. And I’ll get to both, but in my studies I found this quote regarding Ruth and I’ve been turning it over in my mind the last couple weeks.
“I don’t know why it diminishes grief to have someone weep with you, but it does. Friends who cry with me are like Ruth, who, having lost her own husband, could stand beside Naomi without trying to fix the unfixable.” – Dee Brestin.
There is something so comforting and universal about sharing the pain and the brokenness and being raw where it hurts. We live in a society where it’s not popular to wear your heart on your sleeve, but we celebrate the artists that do, because finally we feel like someone understands.
The way Ruth clung the Naomi and didn’t attempt to fix the problem, but she didn’t leave her alone in it either.
“Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16
And then in Esther I’ve reached the point where Ahasuerus has said Haman can kill all the Jews and Mordecai is mourning and fasting and wearing sack cloth. And then all the Jews join him and Esther as she prepares to approach the Ahasuerus and plead for her people.
The study I’m doing has us looking at other instances in the Old Testament of fasting and weeping and mourning and wearing sackcloth and I guess I’ve typically just glossed over it but here’s what I’ve learned now that I’m paying attention: 1) it happens quite a bit, 2) it happens quite publicly and 3) it was a demonstration before the Lord.
The weeping and wearing sackcloth and fasting was a public display of pleading before the Lord for His mercy and compassion to reign sovereign over the unimaginable.
(You can check it out here if you want evidence: Genesis 37:34, Genesis 18:27, Job 42:5-6, I could go on but Joel 2 has my favorite example of this, specifically verses 12 and 13.)
“Therefore also now, says the Lord, turn and keep on coming to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning [until every hindrance is removed and the broken fellowship is restored]. Rend your hearts and not your garments and return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness; and He revokes His sentence of evil [when His conditions are met].” Joel 2:12-13
So if Taylor Swift is so popular and public displays of weeping and mourning are Biblical, I can’t help but wondering if we are missing something. If in trying to be stoic, we aren’t missing that there is no shame, but rather power, in emotional, demonstrative pleas before the Lord.
I think that the Lord’s strength and power is found when we bear the raw and the heart wrenching.
What is the verse I love so well?
“But He said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
I think it is just now occurring to me that being weak before the Lord might take public displays of weaknesses for the Lord’s power to truly rest on us. It might not be enough to privately be broken and publicly be stoic for us to experience the magnitude of what the Lord wants to offer us.
There is power and strength in the raw and the heart wrenching if we truly bear it before Him, and wear it for Him to see.