Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

True Sadness


“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.'” (Luke 17:20-21)

The Avett Brothers’ song, True Sadness, is about what is wrong with the world. There is a cancer that has spread to every thing and every person. The cancer is sin, but it manifests itself in different ways. The chorus of the song acknowledges that people may seem fine, but deep down there is a “true sadness.” We are good at hiding our brokeness. In a culture obsessed with social media, we often lack the deep relationships that allow us to be vulnerable and address the real issues in our life. We can curtail the details of our life on Facebook so that everything looks terrific when in reality we all have issues if anyone would “take the time to peel a few layers” away. Our lives have been altered by the darkness that entered the world when Adam and Eve broke the covenant with God.

The song mentions alcoholism early on, but then there is a lengthy reflection on the problem of lust.

Angela became a target
As soon as her beauty was seen
By young men who try to reduce her down
To a scene on an x-rated screen
Is she not more than the curve of her hips?
Is she not more than the shine on her lips?
Does she not dream to sing and to live and to dance down her own path?
Without being torn apart
Does she not have a heart?

The root of lust is one of the biggest problems that affects our world. It is the problem of not seeing human beings for who they truly are, people created in the image of God. When one person lusts after another person, they are looking at that person as a mere object. The Avett Brothers repeatedly ask the question, “Is she not more…?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Objectifying individuals leads to sins such as lust, rape, slavery, murder, etc. When a person is no longer a person, it frees people to do whatever they like. When we treat people as objects, we rob them of their dignity, and we become a little less human ourselves. We do not act as we were created to act. We allow the darkness to take hold, and we become part of the problem.

Although the song is entitled “True Sadness,” it is not without hope. There are glimpses of redemption throughout the song. It begins with a friend who comes to help in a time of need.

You were a friend to me when my wheels were off the track
And though you say there is no need I intend to pay you back
When my mind was turning loose and all my thoughts were turning black
You shined a light on me and I intend to pay you back

Next, there is the hope of overcoming the power of addiction. In a line most likely referring to AA, The Avett Brothers sing, “And I’ve seen the program make men out of monsters.” Sin distorts the image of God within us. When we give into sin, we lose some of our own dignity. A monster is not human, but there is always the possibility of regaining the humanity we have lost.

The battle we face is constant and can be grueling. We live in a dark world, but we are called to be a part of a new reality.

I cannot go on with this evil inside me
I step out my front door and I feel it surround me
Just know the kingdom of God is within you
Even though the battle is bound to continue

In Luke 17:20-21, the Pharisees were looking for magnificent signs, but Jesus informs them there are none. Rather, the kingdom of God was in their midst. It was more ordinary than they had expected. God had taken on flesh and blood. He came to heal the sick and feed the poor. The kingdom of God was staring them in the face, but they could not see it.

Our lives are more often changed by the ordinary than the extraordinary. The church, the kingdom of God on earth, must be incarnational. It must take on flesh and blood so that we may step into the lives of others and shine the light they so desperately need. In a world longing for human interactions, we must be a community committed to openness, vulnerability, sharing, and redemption. Programs like AA are able to “make men out of monsters” because no one is hiding behind a mask. The relationships are real. Confession is essential to getting better. Transformation is taken seriously because it is a matter of life and death.

What sometimes seems ordinary is quite extraordinary. Jesus did not look like what the Pharisees were searching for. He was a mere human, but he was so much more than that. He was God in the flesh. Our battle will continue, but we must remember that God is in our midst. The power to overcome darkness and see the world in a different way is possible through the power of Jesus. This song reminds us to take one day at a time. Life is never easy. Jesus never promised it would be, but the power we need to overcome is closer than we might realize.

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