Sunday, March 4, 2007

For shelter from this bitter winter

“The fact of the matter is, Stavesacre as we know it, is done.”

These words were written a few days ago by Dirk Lemmenes, bass guitarist for the best band on the planet. I’m not an overly emotionally guy. I get rather annoyed by all the silly teeny-boppers and whatever trashy, shallow, MTV-created, group-of-the-month band is playing on their iPod. But that wouldn’t be fair. Not completely anyways. Because I understand what it means to identify with a group whose music has changed the very direction of my life. Music that rocks me hard, touches my soul, and makes me desire the bigger things in life. Music that hasn’t sold out. It is rare, this kind of music. It isn’t Christian, per say. It isn’t secular either. It’s just awesome music, sung from the gut, without pretense or show, wrapped in the raw emotion of guys who are trying to figure out how to make their way in this cursed world.

I recall a phrase from one of the deacons at our church. It was said in the context of resolving some disagreements on the “style” of music that was going to be played at our church, but his words fit here. "Music," he said, "is deeply personal. It affects you all the way to your soul. It's not an easy thing to give up something that is such a part of who you are."

It was late 2001, and my marriage was on the rocks. I had quit my successful job to become a full-time assistant pastor; a poster-boy for the “could have made millions but sold out for God” illustrations that everyone loves to hear. But the church was unstable and immature, and we were suffering as a result. Our newly-adopted, mentally handicapped daughter added to the pressure immensely. The fact that we had also moved and birthed our new baby boy the same year put us squarely in the “What were they thinking?” department. (Psychologists tell us that a career change, a new baby, an adoption, and a move, are all among the biggest stress-inducers in any marriage. So, being the smart and forward-thinking people that we were, we decide to tackle all four. In the same year. So, why were we having problems again?)

My wife and I had completely forgotten how to communicate. My 5-year old told my parents that we couldn’t talk about church without arguing (now there’s a good example for a pastor to give his family). I didn’t know where to turn. But God slowly and deliberately started to put people and things in my life to push us in the right direction. I remember two of them distinctly.

The first was the advice of my dear friend Paul, who spent an entire day counseling me and praying over me. God’s grace was manifest in flesh and blood that day, and I have no idea where we would be now were it not for his boldness and wisdom. I thank God for you, Paul.

The second was while driving down I-75 near Detroit on my way to work. I had picked up a Stavesacre CD as a result of a reader’s choice award at HM Magazine. Great music, but I hadn’t really listened to the words yet. But as I was driving, I heard the following lyrics crystallize in my ears through the music:
I watch you bend beneath the waves
And it seems heavier these days
Each time I see you force a smile my heart just breaks
To see you bend beneath the waves

I don't believe this is what God ever intended
I think it's time to go

The sun is going down I say we follow it out of town
We've been here for far too long (but will they know we're gone)
And in the morning when it rises
Maybe it will shine for us
I’m fairly confident the song was not written about a burned-out assistant pastor who was attempting to save his marriage while trying extricate himself from the ugly situation he had put himself into. But you couldn’t have convinced me of it at the time. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I am 100% convinced to this day that God had planted that CD, and that song, in my life at that time, as further evidence of His gentle pushing in the direction that I needed to go.

To make a long story short, I buried my pride, and we followed God’s lead through that dark tunnel out to the other side. And as has been said elsewhere by the same band, “It’s beautiful when you’re out here.”

So you can possibly understand some of the sadness I feel when I read that the band has run its course. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to look forward to any more music from “my” band, other than the promised final CD and farewell tour. I have seen Stavesacre in concert twice, and they were both the best musical nights of my life. No amount of money or logistical dilemmas will prevent me from catching a stop on their farewell tour. I can’t wait.

Thanks for the music, guys, and God bless.

p.s. I don’t like linking in the text of my postings, I feel they are distracting. Yes, I know, it’s the internet. Blah blah blah. Spare me. But I do like to provide the links here in case anyone would like to follow up on references in the article:

Dirk’s post on The Acre forum
HM Magazine


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing... Your article is a huge encouragment! I often forget that some of the most powerful ministry in the world happens when two guys just get together, share a meal and dive into each others lives!

Why don't we do that more?

Anonymous said...

You are so right. Our culture fights against unstructured time, and our churches have taken that cue. We've sort of programmed ourselves to death and lost touch with some basic guidelines for spiritual growth - food, time, and a true interest in each other's life.

This is actually called “discipleship”, but what’s the first thing you think of when I say that word? Usually some sort of program, system, or set of steps. In truth, its often not quite so complicated.

Thanks for the comment, "p" :)