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Country Music

Over thanksgiving break I signed up for a record club. I’ve never done it before, but there are no good vinyl shops where I live so I figured I might as well. Last month was a sampler of different artists, but this month it was a full album, The Bird & The Rife. I’m up late listening to it. It’s good, sad country music.

Growing up I always listened to country music with my dad. As I grew older I stopped and began to listen to other genres. For a while I even claimed Phish as my favorite band, but that stopped when I wasn’t smoking weed everyday. Now as I am closer to 27 I find myself listening to more and more country music. Not the crap they play on the radio these days, but the real stuff. The type of music that is made up of tear filled mornings and whiskey filled nights.

A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s Christmas party and they had some friends play music for the party. As they played the room was filled with the sound. Most people sat silently letting the music flow through them as good music is meant to do. But behind me some guys who looked like they meant to be at a frat party were laughing to themselves. I turned around in expectation to quiet them, but through their laughs one asked me, “Why does she keep singing sad songs?” The answer, at least for me, was that all the best songs are. Maybe it’s just the Irish in me. For as it has been said, “When God made the Irish, you know that He was mad. For all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.” And as we know, everyone is part Irish these days.

I think that there is just something about honest sad songs that pierce our hearts. At least those of anyone who has lived long enough, though I am only on the precipice of the age that allows such a declaration. That’s part of the human condition. We are a people who are destined for pain. More often that I would like that pain is brought on by my own selfishness and pride. But sometimes it comes about not because of my sin, but that of others. And I think that’s the harder one to get past. Those times that we play over and again in our head and try to find why it’s our fault and each time we just wound ourselves again. We find ourselves being wounded by someone we trusted or loved, and each time the play the film over in our head the wound only reopens.

If only the wound was self-inflicted we could patch ourselves up. We would know what caused the pain and just how deep the wound went. But when it’s someone else’s blade that pierces our heart the wound can be a mystery. We know not what will remind us of the pain, or just how long it will take to heal. When the wound is brought on by another only another can heal it. Sometimes we are given the grace of that person asking forgiveness and offering an ointment that will help us heal. But sometimes that person seems to wound us and not give a damn if we heal. What can we do then?

I think, or perhaps I have to think, that it’s in those times that we aren’t supposed to find a way to heal. Or at least we’re not to heal ourselves. It would be great if forgiveness was asked, but sometimes it’s not. Answers are often sought but not always given. Why? The only answer I can find is that we are to find another to heal us. But when we are wounded deeply the words of someone who knows nothing of our pain often seem like gas on a fire.

It is in these places that I can only find one that truly knows my pain. When I’m reminded of heartache and betrayal my mind can only find rest in knowing that there is someone who has suffered and been wounded just as I have been. For a guide is no good unless He knows the road that we’re on. Over the last few months I have come to see Jesus in a light that I never knew before, other than theologically. The book of Hebrews in the Bible paints Christ as our High Priest. It speaks of Him knowing where we are because He walked through every temptation and pain that we know. So often we want to make that a happy thing, but it’s often pain and heartache, and the stuff of good country music. Maybe that’s why so many good country singers find the time to sing gospel music as well. Maybe they realize that they need it. But we don’t want to think of Jesus being wounded, other than on the cross. But time and again we see Him being betrayed, even before Judas offers his kiss. Over and again we see His heart break.

For so many they don’t like this picture of Jesus. They want Him to only have been strong; Lord knows I have. But when I feel, to borrow words from Bilbo Baggins, like butter spread over too much bread, it’s a comfort to know that, at times, Jesus felt the same. It’s in those moments that I somehow feel closer to Him. In those moments I really begin to see Him as my elder brother who, like my own brother, is there to offer help me in the places He has walked before.

So as the wounds I carry reopen, I’ll run to Jesus, who offered his own heart to be pierced. Not only to cover my sins, but to comfort my pain. When the road ahead, which looked to ease, becomes hard again, I know that I can trust Him who has already traversed the trail. So when I feel my heart begin to ache and the need to listen to the sad country music that I’ve grown to come back to, I can know that there is someone who will join me. And because He’s been there before, He can be there with me.

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