Tonight I met with a group of about thirty people at Grace Community Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. The church looks and feels like the kind of church I would want to create and be a part of. The artwork, the signs over the doors, the rustic aged look of the doors and handles and pews, all of it. It made me feel instantly at home. All the people were kind. And the piano was tuned and flawless.

We went through line, got our food, then sat in a circle of chairs, all facing in. Where I sat, there was a chair open on either side of me. The circle filled more and more, until these were some of the last available seats. Then Ben Shive and Andrew Peterson came and sat on either side of me. They always know that they know me, but they have trouble remembering where from or what my name is. This I can understand. They travel the country a lot, they meet a lot of people. It’s hard to keep it all straight. Especially when you see people in a new place. You know them from Nebraska, but here they are in Tennessee. Are they really the person you think they are? Andy Gullahorn is the only one who always remembers me by name, and this is Ben Barber’s fault for letting Gullahorn in on my nickname: the cello romancer. Jeff Carlson dubbed me thus in a rap he made up for me: “Yancer, the dancer, the cello romancer, if he was a tropic his name would be cancer.” Anyhow, so Gullahorn said hello. As did AP and Ben.

After we finished eating we all moved into the sanctuary and sat in rows on the stairs, like we were in an academy choir. I’d met a few of the people during the meal: we’d exchanged information about where we were from and what we did and why we were here and how anxious we’d been for the last few days looking forward to this night but unsure what to expect. Then we also discussed our lack of experience as choir members, at which point I realized that I’ve never been a part of a choir. Interesting, egh? I assured the woman beside me that the whole point of a choir is for everyone to help each other along. No one should stand out. We should be one voice. So all she had to do was follow and blend in.

AP stood before us and explained the gist of the song and why he’d written it. It’s about accepting Christ for the first time in your life, and then accepting Him again, and again, as the years go by and you sin and you feel compelled to believe and accept in deeper, more astounding ways. People always ask him, he said, when he first became a Christian, and he wrote this song as the answer to that question. He grew up a Christian. His father was a pastor, and God was always a part of his life. After his father would preach each Sunday, at the end of the service he would offer an invitation for anyone who wanted to accept Christ and be baptized to come forward. His father would then lead those who came forward in the confession of Peter, and they would repeat after him: “I believe (I believe) He is the Christ (He is the Christ), the Son of the Living God (the Son of the Living God).” When AP was nine years old he responded to his father’s invitation and he came forward and repeated those lines and was baptized. That was the first time. But there were more such experiences. Our humanness needs reminding. When we get tangled and ensnared, we need to remember that we once believed and that we will believe again.

Next we heard the song. I remember most of the first times I heard new AP songs, but this first time experience is one I will not forget. Being in that room with his family and friends and this community of people who do not know each other but who share a faith and a belief strong enough to bond them together in love and listening with these people to a song about the very essence of that faith and belief: it was tangible and real and moving.

When we began to sing along with the chorus, learning our part, I meant every word.

“I believe He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

“I believe He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

“My Lord, My Saviour.”

“My Lord, My Saviour.”

We sang for over an hour, trying out different harmonies, adding another part over the top that went “Lord My Saviour, O Hosanna” (which Ben Shive kept saying as O Susanna). There was laughter and ballyhoo and community. Once we’d taken a group photo and everyone had left their name and address (for the CD we will receive as thanks) the crowd began to disperse. Some folks had driven from Virginia, Indiana, and New York, I think. Gullahorn said that I won the prize for coming the furthest. I asked him what prize I had won. He said, “Oh, uh, did I say prize? I meant, pride. You won the pride.” A few people stayed behind to wait to talk with AP, while his wife Jamie talked with Randall Goodgame and some other friends and their kids played on the stage. I moved to the piano, which was gorgeous, and played a few hymns softly in the background. Once it was down to about a dozen people, I stopped playing and made to leave, stopping by AP once more to say thank you. He sends his greetings to all the Lincoln folk.

I pulled out of the parking lot and called Ben Barber and started driving back toward 65 north. I was pumped full of adrenaline after such a moving experience, and I needed to share it with someone. AP said to say hi to the blond guy with the glasses, who I thought was Barber, but apparently Barber is now the bald guy with the glasses. It’s hard to keep up.

I drove home, 65 north to Long Hollow Pike, right turn, right again on Caldwell, careful not to go over 30 mph because the cops always hover near the street and pull you over if you’re anything more than 2 over.

It was dark and time was fuzzy. I couldn’t remember if I was 24 and on vacation or 17 and driving home. The further on Caldwell I drove, the more I felt certain that if I just kept driving, I’d pull in the driveway at 457 Chickasaw Trail, get out of my car, and go inside a house where my whole family would be, together and alive and well. My hands moved on the wheel and followed the curve of the road as though they’d been driving this route every day for the last seven years. When I rounded the last bend I slid smoothly into the left turn lane and entered Indian Hills. Right at the first road, past the swimming pool, stop sign at the bottom of the hill, follow the curve up and around, then there on the right. Everything as it was. No reason to believe anything had changed. There was a light on in Emily’s room; all the other windows were dark.

All I could do was turn the car around in the circle and start back down the hill. I wanted to stop and park and get out, but it was 10 p.m., dark in a residential area, and I didn’t want to worry the neighborhood.

In that moment I felt my father’s absence more profoundly, more absolutely than I have in a long time. I didn’t cry. My chest didn’t ache. I was neither angry nor sad. I stared blankly out the window of my rental car. Driving back to my hotel meant retracing the route, admitting that this was not home, and I didn’t want to. I felt empty. Like the house, the neighborhood, the road, the drive, all was once a cup full to the brim and someone had emptied it, poured out every last drop. They were all empty cups—the house, the neighborhood, the road, the drive . . . even me. I was an empty cup. And all seemed even emptier because I knew, I had seen and tasted, what it was like when everything was once so full.

The Good Confession

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5 Comments on "The Good Confession"

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Carissa J

Oh, Ben. I wish I could show you the look on my face. Because I can’t think of any words that will do.

Rodrick

Ben, I agree with Carissa. But I just want to add that we love you. All of us. We really do.

Angela

Oh my friend, you are brave and have the beautifulest of souls and are very much loved.

whenareyoucomingtolincolnwhenareyoucomingtolincolnwhenareyoucomingtolincoln? ^^

Emily
um. i’m totally welling. right now. tears. no lie. well, i was planning on congratulating you for being a rockstar, but now i will congratulate you on being a person who can capture emotion and share it with others in a way that few can. i am blessed to have you as a part of my life. oh and p.s.– i think we should have a really fun party when the CD comes out, to celebrate you being famous. we can blow up a copy of the liner notes really big, and have butter pecan cake with cheesecake icing. yum.
Jeremy

Seriously? Seriously, you are awesome. seriously.

wpDiscuz