Amazing Grace, Willie Nelson & The Stories We Tell
The other day I listened to the podcast "One With Willie," where the host interviews celebrities, authors, and other assorted luminaries about their favorite Willie Nelson songs.
The guest on the episode was author and speaker Brene Brown, whose books and talks I absolutely love. If you've never read anything by Brene Brown, you should.
Her work on overcoming fear and shame to "rise and rumble," as she puts it, is nothing short of transformative.
As it turns out, Brene Brown's favorite Willie Nelson song is one of his renditions of the old, familiar hymn "Amazing Grace." She revealed that she listens to the song several times weekly, especially before boarding a plane.
During the discussion about her love for the song and how it helps allay her fears and keep her centered, she said something absolutely amazing about why listening to Willie Nelson sing it was so meaningful:
"I don't want a hymn from someone who's never passed out in a bar."
That quote resonated so much that I wrote it down on a Post-it note and stuck it to my computer screen.
What Brown meant when she said by that quote is that it's hard to listen to a song about grace when sung by someone who hasn't experienced what it's like to have grace fall upon them in a moment of deep despair.
Songs of redemption mean more when the singer has felt what it's like to be redeemed when it felt like they would never find it.
We all know what it's like to feel like the bottom has fallen out of our life. We've all been through heartache, loss, disorientation, and tragedy. And we all have experienced grace and redemption at some point in our life.
Even individuals who don't have a sordid past regret to know these feelings. To put it another way, you may have never passed out in a bar, but you've known what it was like to feel like to struggle and suffer.
Which makes your story compelling. You should tell it more often.
I've learned that when I'm sharing the story of my life of faith, what resonates with people the most is when I talk about my moments of doubt, the struggles, the trials, and tribulations of my life, and my journey through them to the other side.
I'm also learning it's perfectly okay to tell people when I'm not okay.
I grudgingly admire the stories of good Christian folks who claim to never waver in their faith in God, never question, doubt, or wonder what God is up to.
But when I'm feeling rotten and despairing of hope, I need to hear from someone who knows what it's like to feel that way, too.
So don't be afraid to tell the stories of your life of faith that include the details of how you really felt when you went through Hell.
Redemption songs are best sung by those who found redemption when everything around them pointed toward calamity. Those kinds of songs can save the world.
May you tell your stories and sing your songs of trial and challenge with passion and longing that comes when you've seen the other side of it.
May you find ways to sing when even now you are going through the darkness. May you become a light so that others may see.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.