Then it happened again. I was driving again. This time, the tears came stronger. It's one thing to reflect back and see how you've been shaped by culture and context and how the sins of others and of your own have affected you. You see the fall out in your life, and sometimes you see the causes, and it hurts. But then, there's a much worse hurt, and that one comes from the self-awareness that you've been a player in the song of destruction and the fallout comes against someone you love. I turned to a different hip-hop station, this one out of Grand Rapids, and again Eminem came across the airwaves with a song about how his life, decisions, and the pain of his relationship with his former wife Kim has affected his two daughters. It's unnerving, too. I later saw the video, which made it even harder because it shows Marshal watching home movies of his two daughters enjoying life as only participation in the innocence of childhood can. He gets the impact of his own decisions on his children. That cuts deep. Here are a few of the lyrics which are layered with the steady solemn beat of lament and regret sublty underlined with a variation in a minor key of the mockingbird lullaby on piano...
Yeah I know sometimes things may not always make sense to you right now But hey, what daddy always tell you? Straighten up little soldier Stiffen up that upper lip What you crying about? You got me Hailie... I can see you're sad, even when you smile, even when you laugh I can see it in your eyes, deep inside you want to cry Cuz you're scared... ...We did not plan it to be this way, your mother and me But things have gotten so bad between us I don't see us ever being together ever again Like we used to be when we was teenagers But then of course everything always happens for a reason I guess it was never meant to be But it's just something we have no control over and that's what destiny is But no more worries, rest your head and go to sleep Maybe one day we'll wake up and this will all just be a dream [Chorus] Now hush little baby, don't you cry Everything's gonna be alright Stiffen that upper lip up little lady, i told ya Daddy's here to hold ya through the night I know mommy's not here right now and we don't know why We feel how we feel inside It may seem a little crazy, pretty baby But i promise momma's gon' be alright [Chorus] And if you ask me too Daddy's gonna buy you a mockingbird I'mma give you the world I'mma buy a diamond ring for you I'mma sing for you I'll do anything for you to see you smile
The lyrics by themselves don't capture it. You have to hear it, see it, feel it. The regret is deep, and there's almost a dullness to the song. It's not angry, it's not railing... it's a dull pain, a slow lament, a deep groaning. It reminded me of this from Job [chapters 23 & 24]:"Even today my complaint is bitter; his [God's] hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! ...The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help."
Whether Eminem knows it or not, his, like mine and yours is a wounded soul crying out for help. Throughout the song, there are several places where he shares his hope (mama's gonna be alright, etc.) He knows intuitively what my theology teacher said, that the world is not the way it's supposed to be. Goodness has been twisted. Beauty has been stolen. The song of joy has been placed in a minor key. And we are all both victims and participants, recipients and players. Those of us who are parents (hopefully) realize at some point that we have passed on pain and hurt to our children, and we come to a point where we seek to make the change, to alter the universe for our children, to give them a hope and future rather than the sins of our fathers and mothers. And yet, at times, we participate, and it breaks our hearts. We yell at our children. We tell them to be quiet when they're singing for joy at something silly. We criticize them. We divorce their other parent. We show anger and disappointment with a look, or a word. We crush their spirits.
We've got to let that soak. We have to be honest about the deep wounds we have. And we need to allow ourselves to groan for relief. Because it is in that groaning that we come to the edges of ourselves and begin to look beyond ourselves for a hopeful solution. It is in the emptiness of struggle that so often we begin to hear the even deeper sound of a song that cannot be destroyed - the song that is older than creation itself, a song of hope, redemption, re-creation, and renewal.
Long ago, a poet, known only as an afflicted man, wrote a poem recorded as Psalm 102 that has these two lines as a title:
A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord
In this poem he writes these powerful words:
Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly... Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones... Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: "The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death."
To some, that might not sound like much, but to others, myself included, the idea that God looks down upon us and hears our groans as we struggle with the song of destruction in our lives means alot. It offers me more hope than I've found elsewhere. And my heart and soul resonate with that song profoundly. It is that juxtaposition that drew me to tears both times because I long to speak, write, sing the song of creation well not only to myself and my children, but to the Eminem's of the world who feel the tension and long for resolution. "In the resonance [of the song], in the reverberations, we speak it, it is our own."
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