Some moments live at the intersection of music, truth and real life. I won’t say it happens all the time, but it happens enough that I’ve spotted the trend. My conclusion is that God is in the guitars and gutsy lyrics and the Holy Spirit drops them off at just the right moments. You just have to be in tune, or should I say tuned in. Let me tell you about my recent my bookend encounters with Kristofferson and recovery, grief, and grace.
A few weeks ago a minister friend of mine got the call that he knew was going to come but didn’t want to hear. The son who had battled the demons of addiction all his adult life lost the fight. What seemed inevitable was and way too young he left behind a lot of hurt, a lot of damage, a beautiful son and a heartbroken father. My friend imbibes on the same music I love and Lisa does not. So in the moments after Facebook delivered his terrible news, I just may have been listening closer for a pastoral word when I got one courtesy of Kris Kristofferson. Unscripted, my car stereo slipped into this gritty hymn.
“The angels were singing a sad country song. It sounded like something of yours.” Got my attention and got me ready for the righteous refrain that tops any sermon I have heard or preached in a while.
“Love is the reason we happened at all
It paid for the damage we done
And it gave us the freedom to fall into grace
On the way to our place in the sun.”
The tagline and title; “Love Is The Last Thing To Go.” It is. And it was.
A month later I sat in a recovery community gathering as another friend celebrated twenty years sobriety. Same struggle. And in ways I will not write of here, the same story and same parent’s pain. Yet, by grace and who knows what else, he landed in a far better place. At least for now, for the most seasoned of the sober know how to take it one day at a time. After the meeting, I hugged my friend and his wife and headed home. Driving back my mind and memory conjured up another offering from America’s grey beard poet. It was written in his youth but rendered more authentically with age.
“Lord help me to shoulder the burden of freedom
And give me the courage to be what I can
And when I have wounded the last one who loves me
Lord help her forgive me, I just don’t understand.”
Grace is real and the only real hope we have. And It does not come with a debt. But the grace that relieves our burdens bears one as well. We are invited to take hold of grace when nothing else is sufficient or even available. Then comes the call to tend it well and extend it when we can. That’s the weight that bears down on the freedom to fall into grace. It’s the blessing and a burden that my two friends know all too well. I’m fortunate my life has crossed paths with theirs and other fellow strugglers. And I’m glad old Kris could reach out to this preacher to speak into their story. And his.