In the swirling, curling storm of desire unuttered words hold fast
With reptile tongue, the lightning lashes towers built to last
Darkness creeps in like a thief and offers no relief
Why are you shaking like a leaf? Come on, come talk to me
(Peter Gabriel, Come Talk to Me)
In this song written to his then estranged daughter, Peter Gabriel’s succinct expression of pain and desire resonate with anyone who is longing for a restored relationship. A father hurt his daughter. A daughter does not know how to forgive him. Bitterness and blame have taken deep root. Forgiveness is out of reach. No expression of regret seems to satisfy. A stalemate. Both have run out of moves.
Though I am a longtime fan of his music, I am quite sure Peter Gabriel and I have very little in common. That is, until I hear these words. Like him, I long for rightness and permanence in relationships with those I love. I have a wonderful relationship with my own daughter, so I have not walked in his shoes in this particular regard, but I have had seasons where I longed to right broken relationships that had come to a stalemate. I wanted to enjoy the fellowship enjoyed in an earlier season, but there didn’t seem to be a way to get it back. I have also been with friends who have shared deep pain as they prayed for restoration with a son or daughter. And these lyrics always come to mind. In them, I hear the heartfelt cry of a father who is desperate to make amends for the pain he himself had inflicted.
Peter Gabriel’s religious views are eclectic, tending towards Buddhism. In his own words, “When I’m thinking of God I’m a Buddhist, when I’m in pain and despair I’m a Christian.” The very root of Buddhism denies personhood. Its path is towards disengagement and detachment. That may be in Gabriel’s theology, but his humanity is saying something very different. It fascinates me that when he feels most vulnerable and human he knows that it cannot be expressed except by what is affirmed in Christianity.
I have quite a bit of admiration for this songwriter. I learn from him – he expresses emotions from places I have never been. Solomon, in the Book of Proverbs, said, “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks. (Proverbs 1:20-21).” Solomon invites the learner to become a student of humanity’s crucible. The street is the classroom. Countless interactions taking place in front of us are the teacher. Humanity is a loud proclaimer! Listening to this songwriter is like standing in Solomon’s streets.
I am always looking for points of connection with people who have a fundamentally different worldview than mine. It isn’t because I am looking for “evangelistic projects,” but because our common humanity is a strong magnet. It is worth the effort to cross over the parched lands that lie between us in order to know one another. Yes, I am always hopeful that I might reveal the hope that is in Christ, but I form genuine caring relationships that stand outside of any hoped-for outcome. I am hopeful for them, but I am also thankful for them.
I can learn from people who represent vastly different worldviews than mine. In fact, personhood and humanity remain our common bond and cannot easily be repressed (even when their denial is a stated belief). I can affirm them, because Jesus Himself affirmed those who were seeing beyond the clouded mirror of our broken perceptions in order to express things that are pleasing to God. I find my example in Jesus’ gracious regard for fallen humanity, as Isaiah tells us in his prophetic vision of Christ,
“…a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” (Isaiah 42:3)