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My Favorite People - fellowship of the weak

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

My Favorite People - fellowship of the weak

Tom Elenbaas

One of the songs I love is called All My Favorite People by the Ohio band Over the Rhine. If you haven't listened to their music and you take a listen, you're in for a treat. However, I have to warn you. If you are going to dive in, then dive in deep. Take some time to mull over the lyrics of their songs and let the deep longing mixed with simple joy in the center of the real grit of life grab the breath right out of your half full lungs for just a moment... and wait for the resolution. That's good music. Anway... I digress. The song. Yes. Here are some of the lyrics:

All my favorite people are broken. Believe me, my heart should know.
Some prayers are better left unspoken. I just want to hold you and let the rest go.

All my friends are part saint and part sinner. We lean on each other, try to rise above.
We are not afraid to admit we are all still beginners
We are all late bloomers when it comes to love

All my favorite people are broken. Believe me, my heart should know.
Awful believers, skeptical dreamers, step forward.
You can stay right here, you don’t have to go

Is each wound you’ve received just a burdensome gift
It gets so hard to lift yourself up off the ground, but the poet says we must praise a mutilated world.
We’re all working the graveyard shift,
you might as well sing along
— Over the Rhine from "The Long Surrender"

I've been known to say that brokenness is the universal human characteristic we all share in common. We all come from dysfunctional families because the original family was dysfunctional, and brokenness echoes down the generations. It's true. And we do no good pretending it's not true. It does us no good to hide our realities under fig leaf masks and act like no one knows better. That's what I love about this song. I love its catchy, almost whimsical piano riff with the playful guitar overtop (btw... love the guitar solo) and these almost in your face lyrics about the commonplace normalcy of our messiness. We are all beginners at love. We are a mix of saints, sinners, skeptics, believers, and all working the graveyard shift on our way - faster or slower - to being six feet under. So you might as well catch the tune and hum or sing along. This is what I love about the way of Jesus (not so much Christian culture). The way of Jesus says that the Father loves you and you can come to him no matter what, and as All Sons and Daughters say, He "takes brokenness aside and makes it beautiful."

So, why do we hide? Why do we pretend?

There's a story told of a young mother who discovers short after her son's birth that he his blind. So she insists to her family and neighbors that she does not want her son to know that he is blind, so she bans all words having to do with light, color, or sight. The boy then grows up believing that everyone around him is also blind until one day, a girl jumps over the fence and uses all the forbidden words - and I imagine the boy experiencing both the horror of the relief of truth and honesty. A true, but ironic epiphany that literally changes everything about his view of himself and the world.

Henri Nouwen, reflecting on this story in his journal says the following:

I think that this story symbolizes much of our behavior. We all seek to hide what is strange and painful and to act as if things are as usual... in my own life I have experienced the power of this urge to hide, an urge that often is more harmful than what it tries to conceal.
— "A Land of Martyrs," December 17, by Henri Nouwen

Facing the truth about anything - be it our families of origin, our secret temptations, our nagging insecurities, our haunting fears, or our unusual loves or habits - can be both terrifying and liberating, both difficult and epiphinous (I made up that word), both alienating and connecting. Facing our dis-abilities and our in-abilities is, though, part of the spiritual maturation process. The deconstruction of the false self is an important step in the reconstruction - or discovery or even resurrection - of our true, deep, and amazing self, the one whom God looked upon in creation and said, "It is good!"

Nouwen again:

...everyone shares the handicap of mortality. Our individual physical, emotional, and spiritual failures are but symptoms of the disease. Only when we use these symptoms of mortality to form a fellowship of the weak can hope emerge. It is in the confession of our brokenness that the real strength of new and everlasting life can be affirmed and be made visible.
— Ibid

I love that: a fellowship of the weak where hope and strength can emerge from the confession of our brokenness. For too long we have been fooled into believing that strength is something else, that the fellowship of the strong is the place to be and object of our striving. But Jesus taught a new kind of up-side-down reality in which the weak are strong, the first are the last, the children are the examples, the poor inherit the earth, the meek are blessed, and the people you would never expect are the first to enter the wedding feast. 

I imagine the Father of love singing wistfully with the piano in the background... "All my favorite people are broken... believe me... my heart should know..." 

Come, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
— Jesus



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