struggle and hope dancing together to a hip-hop beat.

3 April 2013

photo from lee reed's fb; lyrics from his song 'enough'

on saturday night i found myself underground, grooving to the tunes of a handful of 'conscious' hip-hop artists. the convergence of all sorts of seemingly disjointed concerns and curiosities that have been rattling around in my brain caught me off guard, as they all revealed their connections… hip hop and church and despondence and corporate hope… who knew they could all dance together in perfect time? gritty rhymes, begging for answers, grieving the greed and materialism that surrounds us, and, more than anything else, longing for freedom in a world that seems like there is none. 

'while most folks they can't cope with it, 
until hopelessness grips the whole globe and shit - 
how much fucked up stuff's enough,
until enough folks say that enough's enough? long we gonna hold our breath, 
hoping for something to come better than this?
yes, desperate for something that's better than this...'
- lee reed

somehow, unexpectedly, my heart was drawn out of its hiding place in my chest, gravitating to the creativity and the spirit of the night, captivated by this brutally passionate offering of words and beats entwined into desperate questions. how we can possibly exist amidst such unjust systems? how have we let ourselves become so distracted? how did so many people come to believe that buying stuff will make you happy? and what have we done to the planet? how do we make sense of this giant mess?

i thought to myself…. i wish the church would feel this much discontentment towards materialism and advertising lies, and the numbness that surrounds us… i know that there is a place for this in the church, but it's been a long time since i've seen it. our hearts are grieved by brokenness, but so often it's limited to the brokenness of personal struggles, or perceived immorality… but it has been so long since i've been part of a fellowship that is concerned with the brokenness that affects our cities, our nation, and our world as a whole. 

there was something so inspiring in the passionate discontentment with the status quo - universal questions, that are all too easily drowned out and ignored, put on a back burner and forgotten unless we actively allow ourselves to engage with them. it reminded me of the most radical man i know - the one who first told me that the patterns of this world are not mine to conform to. relatively speaking, i don't know a lot about Jesus, but if there is one thing i do know, it is that he came to bring freedom

we need freedom, and we need hope. 

last week i read something that reminded me that christ brings hope on a national level… so many of those bible promises are talking to nations… whole huge groups of people - humanity as a whole, even!-  who are in it together, crying out for hope and freedom. those promises aren't just fortune cookie messages from god to me (or whoever happens to crack open that particular cookie) meant to make it all better, to neatly package up my pain and offer a three-step solution. 

and yet the paradox is this: those messages are for me, they are hope and bread and life for me to hold onto, but they are also for a nation at a specific time and place, and also to sow hope for all of humanity - that yes, it's true… this status quo is NOT okay, this is not the world we were created to live in - all of creation, in all places in time, groans as we long for redemption… 

if there was one thing i heard pumping through XLR veins on saturday night it was a cry for redemption. and who is exempt from that longing?

i feel like it's been a long, long time since i thought about stuff like that, and it ignited something in me… for the past couple years i have been so, so focused on my individual struggles, my pain, my world, and just surviving, that i have hardly had the capacity to look past the end of my own nose and remember the bigger issues, this fight that we're living in. at times i feel even more discouraged when i see the struggles of the world around me - there's a nagging guilt that i should be more grateful, for so many are happy in the midst of far, far worse. 

and yet there is a string that ties us all together in our suffering. the solidarity of suffering whispers that we need not feel guilty for our lack of hope, but instead, feel empathy and connection and community in our pain. there is a flicker of silver in these clouds, and the silver is this: we are ALL living in a world amiss, and if no other hope is found (though i believe there will be) - there is hope in the reality that we are not alone.

hours after the show, at church on sunday morning, our conversation turned to 'unity', and how we as a church are here to bring hope to the city. we (collectively) living to bring hope to a city (collectively). i've stumbled my way into a church whanau that actually cares about these things, more than prosperity doctrine, more than splitting hairs over translations and soapboxes to stand on. my GOD it is nice to be around people who are living simply, and counter culturally, and socially consciously… and people who are committed to bringing hope together… so it doesn't all fall back on me, being on point, the stacey-youth-worker-superhero that i so often feel like i am expected to be. god's promise is that he will bring hope and a future to this nation (and all nations!), that i am but one wee cell in this body that is meant to look like christ, and that he will use me as part of this body, in spite of my struggles… even through my struggles. his grace is enough to carry us through this struggling world, and sometimes, if we look close enough, we'll even see flowers spring up through cracks in the pavement.

for your interest, the two headlining hip-hop artists that i got all inspired by were lee reed and test their logik. get amongst. and big, big ups to my all-time favourite hippie for setting up the gig, always inspiring me, and still listening to my unraveling thoughts, after all these years. 

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