The poet Christian Wiman writes, “Lord, suffer me to sing these wounds by which I am made and marred.”
Only a few days remain in the year, and I stand singing on a Sunday morning.
This world is a weary place, brokenness marks every face.—”Lord Have Mercy,” Laura Frost
Dear ones are lost and bodies languish, divisions drive our souls to anguish.
Injustice mingles with the soil, we eat the bread of anxious toil.
Hear our cries, show us favor, we need hope, we need a Savior.
My voice trembles, and I feel my jaw tighten. The notes ring in my ear, but not as loudly as the words. Weary. Brokenness. Injustice. Anxious. I hear those words scrape at my soul, tearing away at the armor I clothed it in when I stepped into the church.
We need hope. I fumble through that last line and try to blink back the emotion flooding my face. The voices around me carry the lyrics I can’t seem to say. It seems a fitting way to end a hard year—a song of desperation sung with a shaking voice, a few tears, and a community who cries out with me.
Show me the scars as you sing of his goodness. Then I might believe.Sarah J. Hauser
I wonder if Israel experienced this as they sang psalms of lament together. As they traveled the long and wearying road to worship in the temple in Jerusalem, they sang, “In my distress I called to the Lord” and “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!”
I can’t imagine what it’s like to carry their history as an enslaved and oppressed people. I sing in the comfort of a heated building with cushioned chairs, and my journey to worship involves a ten-minute drive, not a days-long trek.
But I have cried out to God in sorrow, and the chorus around me offers a reminder that I’m not the only one.
Other refuge have I none,—”Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” Charles Wesley
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
The Duke of Edinburgh clenches his jaw, his eyes locked in place in a futile effort to dam up the tears as he listens to the people of Aberfan sing. They’re standing over a mass grave lined with scores of small caskets.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” the psalmist writes. Just five verses later, he says, “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:1, 6).
The movement from pleading to rejoicing in such a short space seems too paradoxical to make sense. How do you sing to God when he feels so far away? How do you recount the goodness and generosity of God while mourning what’s been lost?
Every week I walk to the front of our church and take a small cup of wine and a piece of cracker. I sit in my seat alongside my husband and kids and rehearse the story with my family again.
“What does this represent?” my husband asks our kids.
“Jesus’s body,” they reply.
“And this?” He holds up the cup.
“His blood.” They know the routine, their responses often rote. But we tell the story of his death and resurrection again and again, praying each week it sinks in a little deeper. It does for me, at least. There’s no resurrection without a death and no healing without his wounds.
They need to know about the wounds.
As we talk through the meaning of the elements with our kids, my four-year-old son starts singing, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” His high-pitched preschool voice rings more loudly than I’d like. I shift in my seat and ask him to whisper. But I don’t want to quiet his song too much.
The Gospel of John tells us the story of Thomas’s initial disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection. Even though Thomas was one of Jesus’ closest companions, part of the inner group of twelve, he still doubted.
When the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25).
I’m like that too, I think. I need to see the marks to believe in the healing. Thomas’s story speaks to all of us cynics. Tell me what God has done for your soul, yes. But show me the wounds he’s healed, the sea he’s turned to dry land, the fire used to purify, the death he’s brought to life. Show me the scars as you sing of his goodness.
Then I might believe.
On October 21, 1966 in the coal-mining town of Aberfan, South Wales, a huge pile of debris from a spoil tip broke loose and flowed downhill. It buried everything in its path—including a school. 144 people were killed; 116 of them were children.
Netflix recounted the story in their series, The Crown. I paused the episode several times as I watched, and at one point I had to leave the room. I couldn’t help but weep as parents dug through the sludge in search of their children. I have three kids of my own. I cannot imagine.
The show goes on to portray the different responses the Royal Family had to the tragedy. In the episode, Prince Philip—the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth—visited the town and attended a mass funeral.
After his return, as he pours a drink and unpacks a few belongings on his desk, the Queen asks him how it went. He shakes his head.
“Extraordinary,” he replies. “The grief. The anger—at the government, at the coal board, but at God, too. Eighty-one children were buried today. The rage—on all the faces, behind all the eyes…They didn’t smash things up. They didn’t fight in the streets.”
“What did they do?” the Queen asks, her eyebrows furrowed and her face looking almost confused.
“They sang—the whole community. It’s the most astonishing thing I’ve ever heard.”
Song in the midst of grief seems as impossible as resurrection after death. But in fact a man dead four days walked out of a tomb, raised to life by one who himself would soon do the same.
So let us sing the whole story, for the doubters among us need to touch the scars to see the healing. Let us sing of the wounds of a Savior raised and sing of our own wounds pleading—and believing—he’ll bring life once again.
Sing the wounds, the ones that mar us and the ones he will make whole.
This post originally appeared on Sarah’s personal blog.
Sarah J. Hauser is a writer living in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and three kids. She creates recipes, shares stories, and writes about theology to help others find nourishment for their souls. You can read more on her website, sarahjhauser.com, and find her on Instagram (@sarah.j.hauser) and Facebook (sarahjhauser).