Friday, April 06, 2007

I Met Jesus in a Bar: A Good Friday Meditation

Some people collect stamps. Other people collect coins. Occasionally I start collections. Mostly, I choose to collect books and to collect music. And, in my music collection I have been collecting songs that are not “Christian” music but have the name of Jesus in them.

For instance, I have “When Jesus Left Birmingham” by John Mellencamp (Rock), “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West (Hip Hop/Rap), the Jesus of Suburbia mini Rock Opera by Green Day (Alternative), and Jesus Take The Wheel by Carrie Underwood (Country) as part of my collection. It helps me get a view of what the culture around us is saying and thinking about Jesus and faith. Mostly, what I find, is that there is a lot more insight about Jesus than one might expect from popular culture. The insight is helpful both in understanding people, and in getting fresh, un-churchy perspectives on my personal theology.

One of the songs that I downloaded was called “I Met Jesus in A Bar” by Jim Lauderdale. It is a song about a person who “was pouring whiskey in an empty heart when I met Jesus in a bar” (yes it is a country song). He goes on to say, “Some people meet Him on a highway, some people meet Him sitting in a back row of a church, I can only tell you my way is where people go to hurt.”

On Good Friday, I was listening to this song and it spoke to me in a unique way. It was like I had heard the song for the first time as I was at one time thinking about the suffering Christ dying on the cross and the suffering of a lonely man in a bar. I began to wonder, why does it seem that the suffering Christ seems to come and call us to trust him in our moments of deep suffering? If suffering and tears is where I meet Jesus most directly, does that mean I should seek to avoid suffering and pain less?

I am not sure I have the answer to that. Except to paraphrase C.S. Lewis when he says that God speaks to us in our everyday lives, but God seems to shout at us with a megaphone when we are in distress. This also became more clear to me as I remember the stories of faith I have heard from people lately, especially during our Purpose-Driven Life Campaign.

As I heard some of our church folks' stories during the Purpose-Driven Life Campaign, it seemed that much of our faith is not necessarily lived in a constant state of suffering, but it is often born and renewed there. I heard stories of people entering church and crying uncontrollably and sensing it was God speaking to them, stories of people grieving over the loss of a loved one and feeling that was a prompt to trust Jesus, or even being in the midst of sinful or self-destructive behavior and somehow hearing the voice of God.

What are we to make of this? I am not sure we are necessarily to seek out pain and suffering unless God calls us to places where that might be a consequence of following his call. I do think God wants to heal our souls. So I suggest we allow God to bring new life to the broken and painful parts of our lives. Intentionally take time to invite Jesus into those hurting places in your life each day, and ask him to heal. Bring your heartache like a guest with you to worship, and lay your pain at the altar and ask God to transform your doubt into hope. Ask a small group to pray and support you with this issue. Then through a process, maybe even imperceptibly, we will all come to see that our wounds were healed through the wounds of the resurrected Jesus.

How does this speak to you? Does this ring true to your experience?


wilsonian said...

Excellent post, Tuck. Much of this resonates with me.

You said:

"I am not sure we are necessarily to seek out pain and suffering unless God calls us to places where that might be a consequence of following his call."

I have come to believe that Jesus called us all to see out pain and suffering... and He did so when He asked us to live our lives with the poor, the orphans and the widows. You can only know a homeless person so long, can only listen to an orphaned child cry from lonelyness so long, can only hold a widow so long as she cries with the empty ache... before you enter into their pain and suffering.

If our lives are pain-free, we're hanging out with the wrong people.

Wanda See said...

Excellent posting! I found your blog because I was looking for the lyrics to "I Met Jesus in a Bar." This song broke upon my heart when I heard it because I've recently begun going through the spiritual reawakening necessary to work a 12-step program. I like what you had to say about this song and about the way suffering either coincides with or actually brings about these reawakenings.

One of the central truths of Buddhism is that to live is to suffer. If there is any dignity and purpose in suffering it is that it helps hearts to understand the origin of their pain and to navigate out of it, finding their way home to God in the process. Those of us who find this understanding in a bar -- or in my case, the bottom of a pizza box -- find it because the Great Spirit, the Force, the Goddess, Jesus, or whatever proper noun we call it by, seeks us out at the source of our pain. My pain SERVES me by making me an acre to be sown by my higher power. Believe me, this last series of food binges has left me all plowed-out and ready for the seed.

Brightest blessings and much love to all who read this.

stillers said...

Cheers for the post - like others - stumbles across it looking for lyrics for the above!
You may find the link to a massage below of interest as this track was used by way of an introduction..
Cheers and God bless.