Wednesday, June 16, 2021

It’s Okay

I haven’t watched “America’s Got Talent” in years. But the pastor mentioned the television show in his sermon last Sunday. He spoke of an extraordinary woman who sang on the show the night before.  She is Jane Marczewski from Zanesville, Ohio, who sang her original song “It’s OK.” So I went online to see why she had impressed him so much. If you have not seen her performance I invite you to do so here.

She is a thirty year old singer-songwriter who goes by the stage name Nightbirde. She has had cancer three times in her brief life, and it has recently returned to reside in her lungs, spine and liver. She has only a 2% chance of survival. But she says, “2% is not zero percent. 2% is something.” On top of all this, her husband left her.

She is an articulate person of deep honest faith. In her March 9 blog post entitled “God Is on the Bathroom Floor” she sounds like a modern day Job. She writes of her prayer life:

I am God’s downstairs neighbor, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself.

I have called Him a cheat and a liar, and I meant it. I have told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayer I know. Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset. Call me bitter if you want to—that’s fair.

Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God. For I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in His shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout: “I’m sad too.”

Wow! Out of this ordeal has come a song that says “it’s okay.” She said to the audience, “It’s important that everyone knows I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.”  She added, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Her song’s refrain says: “It’s ok if you’re lost. We’re all a little lost, and it’s alright. It's ok, it's ok, it's ok, it's ok.”

That is what we discover when we are honest with life. We cannot understand the injustices and inequities of life, especially suffering, evil and death. But it’s okay. There is no way to understand the ultimate mystery we call God. Religion – including my own Christian religion – is nothing more than a clumsy attempt to articulate the Inexpressible.

Many religious people insist they know the answers. They have it all figured out. It is in their books and organized into doctrines and creeds. They come knocking on your door with pamphlets that outline the path to heaven. Nightbirde tried that. She is a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Then life happened, and God showed up.

It is not clear to me if she still considers herself a Christian. At the very least her faith is deeply informed by Scripture.  But hers is not the faith that goes by the name of Christianity these days, the religion that expresses itself more in power politics than the power of love. This is a faith discovered on the bathroom floor. As she says, “If you can’t see God, look lower.” 

She knows a wholeness (holiness) that comes from a place of brokenness. It is only by traveling through the “not-ok” that one glimpses the Whole (Holy) and sees that it is all okay. That is the true meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection.

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