gentry13

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2005 at 12:56 pm

“where do i begin? where do i venture in?”

a couple of days ago i mentioned that there are a few artists, such as frederick buechner, who I cannot critique and (generally) consider above reproach. these men have found the courage to open a vein, and the infusion of their blood has blessed me with life. for the record, you can add bill mallonee to that list.

on monday afternoon, after a morning of swimming, and damn near drowning, in details, the good doctor and i sped our way towards the hawthorne hotel. after a few moments of wandering around the lobby i found bill, flannel clad and sporting a dingy pair of shit-kickers, at the corner of the bar. although i found him first, i was hesitant to introduce myself. so i went and found the doc, who was just about to go look for him in the parking lot, and made him do the honors. twenty hours later, when bill followed us out of the parking lot, i wondered why i was hesitant to introduce myself. though admittedly introverted, i’m not a particularly shy person. i’ve conversed quite easily with politicians, celebrity pastors and hall of famers in the past. so why was i so hesitant to talk to this little five foot eight fella who was chatting amicably with others at the bar? perhaps a few snapshots of my experience will help answer the question.

within five minutes of meeting bill, we shot past the conversational morass of movies and music and headed straight for the heart. he spoke passionately about his love for his family as well as a pressing conflict back home and i let him peek into a couple of pieces of my internal baggage as well. of course i had already seen bill bleed on album after album, but i was shocked by how open and vulnerable he was in person. bill is not only a confessional songwriter, he is a confessional person who truly believes that “what is most personal, is most universal” and is willing to let other members of the body of Christ bind his wounds. a good friend has told me time and again that honesty is my greatest gift and my greatest weakness. perhaps he’s right. but if honesty is one of my greatest gifts, than i am one greedy bastard, for instead of entrusting my wife, my community and even strangers in hotel bars to hear my honest truth and bind my wounds, i quickly scrawl the truth on an internal memo that is filed in subconscious folder 13. although i will probably never find the strength to sew my heart onto my sleeve, i need to trust those i love to listen to and bind my wounds. i also need listen to and bind the wounds of others. paradoxically, i think that it is only after we take the time to listen to and bind the wounds of others that we find personal healing.

after the show we headed over to the yuppie-ish tavern on the green to have a few drinks and spin a few stories. after everyone migrated from the bar to our table bill and i started to talk about our interests. as mentioned before, buechner rends my heart like no other. as it turns out, the same is true of bill. bill also mentioned that he is in the process of becoming a third order franciscan. this intrigued me since i have long been intrigued by francis and have considered joining the order of ecumenical franciscans (the only order that would accept me) as well. from there our conversation branched out into other authors such as henri nouwen and thomas merton. after bill spoke glowingly of merton i confessed that while i traversed the seven story mountain to the top and loved conjectures of a guilty bystander i often find merton’s journals and other works too dense. instead of providing a hermeneutic for merton or suggesting less complicated titles that a bloke like me could understand, bill admitted that he found merton’s writings on saint john of the cross absolutely impenetrable. after spending so many years at bible college and seminary, where students and, at times, professors, speak passionately about what they have yet to comprehend, argue abstractions that they have yet to particularize and carefully hide any shred of their ignorance, i found such honesty refreshing. i realized that bill not only stretched my understanding, he also was more than willing to identify with and share my ignorance. it was a great comfort to connect with someone who is willing to tolerate and even identify my ignorance. i think it is important to connect with others not only on the basis of what is known, but what is unknown. Lord grant me the humility i needed to tolerate and identify with the ignorance of others. more importantly, give me the courage to bring my ignorance into the light of day.

finally, bill’s willingness to face his own darkness, which in the end is the darkness we all share, and speak hope into despair, is beautiful and a bit overwhelming. somewhere in the new testament paul talks about carrying the death of Christ around in his body everywhere he goes. i think bill has chosen the same road. he has allowed the truth of Christ’s gospel to penetrate his darkness, is being transformed by God’s beautiful truth and is inviting others to join him on the journey. through his music and ministry bill is pleading with us to “go where you will under the sign of the cross.” though he cannot walk our personal via delorosa for us, the intent of his music and ministry is to give us strength for the journey.

in the end, i was hesitant to introduce myself to bill because something within me identified him as a holy man. encounters with holy men and women are always a bit unpredictable and are bound to point you towards change. and so it was.

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