‘My life has been a tapestry….
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold’
This February saw the 50th anniversary of the release of ‘Tapestry’ an album of songs written composed and sung by Carole King.
An article in the Guardian newspaper earlier in the month quoted the views of a variety of singer/songwriters as to the significance of this album.
Joan Armatrading, no mean singer herself, said it was ‘One of the best albums, ever, by one of the best songwriters, ever. Period.’ James Taylor noted
‘She started writing by herself, about herself – that is to say, from her own life. It came out of her so strong, so fierce and fresh. So clearly in her own voice. And yet, so immediately accessible, so familiar.’
One word that resonates in the comments from other musicians and singers is authenticity.
Her words, about her life, in her way, her song..
This made me reflect a bit more on a conversation that took place in one of our Bible Study ‘breakout’ sessions, where we shared thoughts about our conversion to the Way of Jesus. How had it been for us?
I spoke about a time in my teenage years when I would go into Edinburgh, on a Saturday evening with some schoolfriends and walk down Queensferry Street to Bristo Baptist Church. This was the monthly Scripture Union Rally, and the building was filled with young people from all over Edinburgh and beyond. The singing of choruses was followed by Bible reading and prayer and then, what was seen as the focus of the gathering, testimony by those moved to come forward and tell their story of how they came to ‘know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal saviour’. And what struck me then was that each one giving testimony could practically name the very minute, the hour and the day when they were converted, and exactly where they were when it happened. What could be called – and often was – a Damascus experience.
For me, not so much. And it worried me that that had not been my pathway. They were so sure, so affirmative, that I doubted my own more diffuse experience.
But then I came to see that my song was different, their words were not my words nor should they be. God wished to hear my song, unplugged and unfiltered. God easily recognises authenticity when God hears it.
“Authentic God experience always leads you toward service, toward the depths, the edge, the outsider, the lower, the suffering, and the simple.” Richard Rohr – American writer, Franciscan Friar.
Is there, in this season of Lent, as we shadow the wilderness walk of Jesus, an opportunity for us to discover what is authentic in our own lives?
Or, as otherwise described in ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Marjory Williams:
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”