Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
Yesterday, as I was driving home from a long road trip, I shuffled through my iPod and I put on Metallica’s Fade to Black. The long drive home, framed by the country road and grazing cattle, had given me the space to reflect on some important realizations about life. It had put me in a melancholy mood. I was half dreaming of my life and remembering some painful things that I needed to contemplate. It was good. It was necessary, but it was painful.
The song Fade to Black is one of Metallica’s very best. At first glance the song is entirely depressing and dark. It’s holds a deep, haunting mix of guitar, story, and ferocious melody. It’s the story of sadness and despair in a poetic envelope. I’ve listened to the song hundreds of times and enjoyed it for what it was…a beautiful song. But as I drove, I stumbled onto something that I had never seen before. Something redemptive.
In a former life I was told never to listen to Metallica. Their songs were considered evil and if I listened to them, they would “infect my soul.” I remember believing that for a long time, wondering what the consequences would be if I snuck a listen. I remember the first time hearing the song (and many like it) and strangely enjoying it. It was almost a guilty pleasure as I pretended I wasn’t listening, yet allowing the sweet melody to wash over me.
The prevailing concern was obvious. The song is about the human state of sorrow and despair at some of the deepest levels. It’s about ending a life. Taken in its absolute context, one could make an argument it’s about suicide. One could easily imagine someone in that state of despair allowing the song to take over and push him/her over the edge. Metallica’s music represented the darker side of life, one that “Christian” music tended to ignore.
Yet as the images of cows and horses, and green pastures flashed before my eyes on that long drive home, I had no illusions of death. I had a strange realization that redeemed my image of Metallica. Metallica had helped restore a little part of my humanity. At that moment I needed to feel sorrow and despair. I needed something to help usher me into that space of the more fearful spaces in my soul. I needed to to feel what I was feeling, even though I was afraid. The song had carried me into what it meant to be human.
Truth be told, I am often afraid of feeling sorrow. My assumption is that if I truly feel that sorrow I will remain trapped by it. Yet in that moment I was not being trapped by despair, but instead being redeemed by it. I was discovering my humanity and what it meant to allow my heart to feel at the deepest levels without being afraid.
I wonder if this is how Jesus felt when he said the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” I had learned for so long to keep doubt at bay, yet for Jesus, this was his most human moment, the one that I could relate to most. In those words, Jesus had given me permission to expressed my fears to God, and to feel something deep. I needed to confront my fears, to call them out by name, to fully realize them in my life, so that I could move past them. As long as I ignored them, they would continue to hold me captive.
I wept as I drove home. For the first time I said thank you for the music of Metallica. I know that might sounds strange to some and obvious to others. I don’t think I’m the first to come to this realization of their music and their talent. I must imagine many have enjoyed the reflection of God in their music before.
Because isn’t this what makes the Kingdom of God so amazing. Jesus had this strange capacity to see what is good in the darkest of places. He brought light to places where there was no “supposed” light. For Jesus, everyone was valuable. I smiled as I turned back onto the highway for the last stretch home. God had redeemed my image of Metallica and it was good.