You got to suffer if you want to sing the blues...

About a hundred years ago, the folk/blues guitarist - David Bromberg - released his first album that included the tune, "You Got to Suffer If You Want to Sing the Blues."  It was a tongue-in-cheek send-up that was simultaneously true, fun and ironic.  Over the years, I've used Bromberg's song as a warning to people in church who too often short circuit when the going gets rough: Look, if you want to go deeper - if you want to grow closer to God's love - you've got to be willing to face and embrace the darkness!  You gotta suffer if you want to sing the blues!

(Too bad you can't understand these cats, yes?  They play oh so well...)

Fr. Richard Rohr put my thoughts like this in his morning e-reflection from the Center for Action and Reflection.  (It is also at the heart of his book, Adam's Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation.  It is a WINNER - one of my favorites by Rohr to date - and filled with insights like the one he shared today.)
The soul has many secrets. They are only revealed to those who want them, and are never completely forced upon us. One of the best-kept secrets, and yet one hidden in plain sight, is that the way up is the way down. Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up…. In Scripture, we see that the wrestling and wounding of Jacob are necessary for Jacob to become Israel (Genesis 32:26-32), and the death and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to create Christianity. The loss and renewal pattern is so constant and ubiquitous that it should hardly be called a secret at all.

Yet it is still a secret, probably because we do not want to see it. We do not want to embark on a further journey [the second half of life] if it feels like going down, especially after having put so much sound and fury into going up [the first half of life]. This is surely the first and primary reason why many people never get to the fullness of their own lives.

One of the things I have discovered over the years - and have done it all too many times myself - is that spiritual people too often project their wounds onto their church leaders.  As clergy this just goes with the territory, of course; but if people get stuck at this simplistic level, we NEVER learn the true value of our suffering.  Because the wisdom of our wounds - if we're willing to experience them - is that our feelings are really only clues to the truth.  In fact, most of the time the truth of our feelings involves the upside down polar opposite of what we are experiencing:

+ If I feel like running away, the upside-down wisdom of the wound tells me that  I really should stay and go through whatever is to come.

+ If I feel like I'm not loved, it probably isn't the others who aren't loving - it is me.

+ If I feel like lashing out, I should probably stay quiet; if I feel like I'm not being heard, I should listen more carefully.

And If I feel like staying away from worship, it would probably best if I got my ass out of bed and entered into community, etc.  The wisdom of our wounds is usually the exact opposite of what we're feeling.  And most of us will refuse to learn the wisdom of these wounds because it is hard work - it is counter-intuitive and sometimes feels overwhelming - but it isn't:  because God is present even in the pain.  Like Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19: 26:  "In your humanity, loving and living fully and deeply is impossible; but with God all things are possible."

As Lent matures, and the Paschal Mystery is exposed more fully in worship, would that we had ears to hear and eyes to see, yes?  But you can't force people to go deeper - or embrace the wisdom of their wounds - you can only invite and encourage and trust the rest to the Lord.


Black Pete said…
I agree with that, as long as we don't make suffering a fetish.
RJ said…
Exactly, Peter, exactly!

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