Murfreesboro Awakenings

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Many thanks to the fine folks at Trinity UMC in Murfreesboro, TN last night for hosting me a second time. This was originally scheduled to be a show this past December, but one I had to cancel due to a severe cold, possibly the flu, the first I’ve ever had to cancel on account of illness. They were kind enough to let me reschedule, and though it was a small-ish crowd (apparently it was graduation night across the land), Paul Eckberg and myself were able to make some music that I felt came off sounding fairly decent considering we were both getting over (more) various sicknesses ourselves and hadn’t played or practiced together in nearly a year. Paul is absolutely tremendous and is the consummate professional musician, ever prepared and as tasteful in his playing as the summer day is long. It’s nice to have utter confidence in the musicians one occasionally gets to play music with. I don’t get to do it often enough, but I do love playing music with Mr. Eckberg. Also, many thanks to Stephen of the SPAdotnet who showed up to support myself, Paul and Chris Lee. Please be kind in your assessment, Stephen.

On the 40-minute drive home, I tried praying, but quickly realized I had no idea what to say since it felt like it had been so long since last I earnestly (and honestly) tried communicating with God.

I tried being quiet but my mind was wiry and busy. I said staggering things like, “I pray for…”, “I pray this, that….” and realized how stale it all sounded, how inhuman, how robotic. I could muster no flesh or blood or simple honest words to simply talk, one friend to another. So, in retreating response, I asked God to give me a thankful heart, while in the back of my mind I fully feared the very proposition: “What if having a grateful heart means having everything I cherish – the people AND the accumulated stuff – ripped away from me?” In no way do I want that to happen, so I sheepishly murmured the prayer, secretly hoping He wouldn’t hear it and might disregard it the way a sleeping cat ignores a buzzing housefly. How fearful and strange it is to be fearfully and wonderfully made. I doubt the prayer will be ignored.

I pulled up to the house at 10:03 pm and, after lugging in my gear, sat on the couch with Danielle, already 40-minutes into the 1990 film Awakenings (Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams). I’ve maybe seen this movie once before, probably circa 1990-91, but had forgotten the vast majority of the plot. There is one scene where DeNiro’s character, Dwayne, having awoken after 30 years of being in a nearly catatonic state (I’m unclear on the actual disease: Parkinson’s or encephalitis?), is courting a beautiful young lady who has been regularly visiting her own father in the sanitarium. This particular scene, Dwayne, who has been showing signs of his slow digression back into this unresponsive state after a summer of “awakening”, is in the cafeteria eating lunch with the red-headed woman. He is attempting to tell her he will never see her again and is saying his final goodbye. He stands to leave and offers her his hand to shake, himself trembling and ticking from the oncoming illness. She takes his hand but refuses to let go of it. She gets up from her seat to stand near him, takes hold of his other hand and proceeds to dance with him in the middle of the hospital cafeteria, a whitewashed room, with only the onlooking hospital staff, various patients and visiting families as witnesses. As she continues to press him close and dance, his spastic trembling subsides and he at last rests his head on her shoulders as the scene fades to black.

We hold so much dear, and yet let so much go. The touch of another human, so kind, so gentle, so caring, so compassionate, so purposeful, constitutes humanity as the beacon and image of an infinitely greater mercy. Combined in that movie scene and my post-concert drive home I was reminded of hope, how much of it I seem to have lost in my “adult” life with all the treading of responsibilities, the martyrdom of self, the threshing of grain, and how the presence of people, my wife and my son in particular, whom I need more than time itself, who are a salvation of sorts — a grace upon and within my world to keep me from losing hope altogether and to keep me from utter fear and shaking, to see in me someone worth saving, someone worth holding onto, worth touching and worth calming. I’ve never been much of a dancer, but, God, please give us thankful and awake hearts to hold so much dear, yet cling to what is worth clinging onto.

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Eric Peters, affectionately called "Pappy" by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He's a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he's not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he's touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


5 Comments

  1. Janna

    “The touch of another human, so kind, so gentle, so caring, so compassionate, so purposeful, constitutes humanity as the beacon and image of an infinitely greater mercy.”

    wow. beautiful. i had never thought of it like this before. intentional human touch has the potential for amazing impact. thanks for sharing this story eric.

  2. eric

    Dumb me; Robert DeNiro’s character is not named Dwayne, but Leonard. This is a prime example of why I am unable to review or explain books (or movies, for that matter) that I’ve read recently or long ago: such awful retention. My apologies to you movie buffs.

  3. Clay Marbry

    Eric,
    I must echo your thoughts. I often fear that God will take away what I love most to teach me to love Him first. In fact, on my drive from Shreveport to Baton Rouge on Tuesday, I struggled with that very issue. However, at times, the Holy Spirit has given me a glimpse of Christ’s heart…how His kindness leads us to repentance. God doesn’t convict of sin for my humiliation but, rather, for my restoration. Since Christ has borne the penalty for my sin – once for all, completely – there is no wrath left. It is satisfied. So, when I do sin, any consequence is for my correction, not my destruction. Does that mean that God will never take away something I love? Absolutely not. BUT, it does mean that I don’t have to cower in fear that He is relishing the opportuniy to smash me by destroying what I love.

    Matthew 7:9-11
    9″Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

    Hebrews 12:18-24
    18You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.”[c] 21The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”[d]

    22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

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