Sunday, February 19, 2023

Some Lessons

"Well I'm buckled up inside
It's a miracle that I'm alive
I do not think I can survive
On bread and wine alone
To think that I could have fallen
A centimeter to the left
Would not be here to see the sunset
Or have myself a time

Remember the sound of the pavement
World turned upside down
City streets unlined and empty
Not a soul around
Life goes away in a flash
Right before your eyes
If I think real hard well I reckon I've had some real good times

Well why do the hands of time
So easily unwind

Some lessons we learn the hard way
Some lessons don't come easy
That's the price we have to pay
Some lessons we learn the hard way
They don't come right off and right easy
That's why they say some lessons learned we learn the hard way"

There are songs that you come to in round about ways.  I'm not talking about those you hear on a radio or have a friend introduce you to.  I'm talking about those you learn something about first and then you have to track it down.

Some Lessons is one of those songs.

I first heard of this song through an NPR interview with the artist Melody Gardot.  The interview focused on the events of her life that led her to writing the songs on her album Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions, including the title track Some Lessons.

In November 2003, Gardot was struck by an SUV while riding her bicycle.  She sustained head, spinal, and pelvic injuries, leaving her confined to a hospital bed for a year, struggling to relearn simple tasks, over-stimulated by light and sound, and suffering from short-term memory loss.

The songs on Some Lessons where part autobiography and part therapy, dealing with the injury and her healing from it.  In the title track, she mentions her injury, in how if she had fallen just a centimeter to the left, she would not have survived.

It's a song about her gratitude to be alive.

And it's heartbreaking and beautiful.

This brings me back around to the problem of suffering.

That theological and philosophical problem of how a good God could allow so much suffering in the world.

While I can't speak to Gardot's faith, one answer she comes to in the song still rings true.

"Some lessons we learn the hard way."

Gardot reveals her appreciation for life, her gratitude just for being able to take another breath, comes from the suffering she endured.  She learned a new appreciation for something so foundational, so simple because of having to struggle for it.

While it's not a popular idea, I think we instinctively know this.  Some of our suffering comes to us because there is a lesson we have to learn.  God allows us to struggle because there is a concept he needs us to understand to prepare us for something that comes in our future.  And he knows this is the way we will learn it the most.

Those of us who are parents understand this concept.  The idea of having to let your children fail, even and especially at things that are hard and really matter, for them to internalize and learn a lesson.  It's not being a bad parent or being uncaring; it's instead the most loving thing you can do.

So, yes, God allows some struggles, some suffering, because He loves us.

This is part of Christ's example to us.  Look at what he suffered and endured.  Torture and death.  Agony and pain.  He begged "if there is another way, please take this from me."  But ultimately, he knew that then hard way was the only way.  

Some lessons.

I want to emphasize here that it is some lessons.  An important modifier.  This does not explain all suffering, all struggle, all evil.  There are struggles that yield no lesson, that are unknowable.  Products of an extremely broken world that reflect its corruption.  Those things we will never understand until far later, when pain has been completely wiped away.

But there are ones that do teach us.  Even big ones.  Struggles that slow us down, that focus us on important matters.  That humble us.  That stretch us and grow us.  And reveal our flaws, our strengths, our character.

They are the price we have to pay.

For some lessons, they remain learned the hard way.

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