When the train comes 'round again


One thing that I love about the Psalms is that they are emotionally raw—an unedited account of the human experience. At times, David eloquently praises God, overcome with gratitude and joy. Other times, he is full of doubt and frustration. And then there are times when he asks God to kill his enemies and bash his enemies' children's heads against rocks. The Psalms challenge me to experience the depth and range of my emotions and to then move through those emotions so that I can experience how I might be transformed by doubt and suffering and hope. Also, I have learned that if I do not adequately process and digest the confusing things that I feel, I am more likely to transmit my unprocessed pain onto others. This post includes three spoken word poems that move from anger to sadness to doubt, eventually arriving at the hope and mystery of Christ. I wrote these on my way to and from Connecticut this past week. Though some of it is personal (direct pain), most of it is my attempt to reckon with the pain of those who are close to me and those who are victims of abuse in this world (indirect pain). And some of the stanzas are written in first person from the perspective of someone else. Basically what I'm saying is that, even if you know me, you will have no idea what I am talking about in these writings.

I was inspired to write something like this because of a train that goes by my townhouse every morning blaring its horn, which seemed to be a metaphor for how I, too, return to the same emotional places and am challenged to keep moving through them like a train, though I am sometimes screaming from within. In writing them, I am giving myself permission to feel whatever I might be feeling and encouraging myself to plunge into the messiness and beauty of my interior life. I hope this is a permission slip for you to do the same.

The other day in church, one of our co-pastors shared a quote that read, "Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted." In some senses, to fully feel is part of being fully alive. My tendency was always to suppress any emotion that was foreign to me, but now I am convinced that these unfamiliar spaces have the ability to transform my soul. As the famous hymn says, "It is well with my soul"—but I've learned that this prayer means more when I have explored all that is not okay.

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PART I Go wear your cloak of religion, but know the savior wore no cloak. No child can condemn. No child judges men. You think that you are justified with your narrow Christianity and your Scripture on a string, with your idolatrous puppeteering and the praise songs you sing. But we can see that you're playing the game. If you shout a little louder, will it hide your doubt? If you point the finger, does it keep the gun from your mouth? I don't fit your categories, and you squirm in your seat. Pro-life, black lives. LGBT affirming. Go hide behind your 2nd amendment rights. Point the gun and pull the trigger. But there's no hiding the murder. No child can condemn. No child buys a gun.