Music: Tell Me Your Sorrows

Earlier this week, I was asked to contribute an audio piece for this edition of Common Ground. The brief I received mentioned that John Dennison would be writing the lead piece on lament and grief, and that he was likely drawing on a portion of C. S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. I took a moment to read the section of Lewis’s book. The imagery is compelling. To those of us who are “tired and have nothing inside,” it offers encouragement and comfort. Shasta’s encounter with the “unwelcome traveller” leads him from tears, through grief, to a profound new perspective of hope.

As I pondered the shape of Shasta’s encounter with the Voice, I was reminded of two things. First, the disciples of Luke 24, walking on the road that led away from Jerusalem, away from dreams that lay dashed on the rocks of crucifixion. As they walked with heavy hearts, a stranger joined them and encouraged them to speak of their troubles. The miles between Emmaus and Jerusalem became a space to speak of grief and to have it enfolded into the mystery of God’s redemptive work. Step by step, the conversation moved the duo’s “we had hoped” closer to their final acclamation, “the Lord has risen indeed.” The stranger made room for the tearful exchange, made space for the disciples to tell of their sorrows.

What also came to mind was Walter Brueggemann’s threefold schema of reality, grief, and hope, and his encouragement to the Church to “perform hope” in a world of despair. These are found in his books Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit and Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks. Brueggemann’s challenge in these texts is the antithesis of the triumphal “name it and claim it” that some of us know too well. Instead, he calls us to a more challenging road. First, to truly name the reality of the world in the face of “cover-up”—the managed language of safe orientation and equilibrium, and tendency to suppress the common experiences of disruption and dislocation. This naming of reality is “grounded … in the rule of YHWH”, by one who can “imagine a world in which YHWH is a lively character and effective agent …” Second, to enter into the pain of the world and to do the work of grief—the healthy grief process that requires many tears, many words, many embraces, many retellings of the grief. It is only after the journey through grief that one can arrive at hope, for as Brueggemann notes in The Prophetic Imagination, “Hope without knowledge of and participation in grief is likely to be false hope that does not reach despair.” The performance of hope is a mark of the Church as she practices the ministry of reconciliation and offers newness in Jesus’s name.

The Voice that walks closely with Shasta on the mountain welcomes the spoken sorrows. The stranger on the Emmaus Road invites lament. Only when  the tears have been shed and the stories of death told can they be weaved into the redemptive purposes of God and retold by the Voice and Stranger as an offering of life.

Reflecting on Shasta’s encounter, the disciples on the road, and Brueggemann’s schema, I began to pen some lyrics, picked up the guitar, and jammed on a few chords. I’m pretty limited on recording gear (and experience). My guitar amp stopped working in the process of writing. And of course, good song-writing takes time. But, with that being said, “Tell Me Your Sorrows” is a song that seeks to capture something of the Christian practice of lament.

The ideas of reality, grief, and hope organise the verses, with the song progressing through the three movements. I have sought to give voice to the Emmaus Road disciples as they weep out the disappointment; “we had hoped” (Luke 24:21). Søren Kierkegaard’s reflections on possibility—the “antidote to despair”—snuck in as I looked to signal the notion of hope and newness in verse three. And the chorus picks up on lines directly from Lewis’s text, for the invitation offered by the great Lion, the High King of Narnia, to the tearful Shasta, is surely the same invitation offered to each of us as we walk the Emmaus Road.


We can keep pretending
Everything will be ok
We can keep denying
But the real is breaking in

Give voice to the pain
For it yearns to speak
Story the travail
We had hoped, we had hoped

Tell me your sorrows

I’ve waited long for you to speak

Prophet, won’t you sing
Sing me into the new
Possibility, the remedy to despair

Tell me your sorrows

I’ve waited long for you to speak
There was only one lion

(Image: “Monk by the Sea” by Caspar David Friedrich, licensed under Public Domain)