I recently went to a show with a few hundred folks in one of my favorite venues here in nashville: the basement. named thusly as it’s in the basement of one of my favorite record stores. it’s not big, not the best sound system, but you get to, for a few short hours feel like you’re still in someone’s living room. like you’re watching the magic happen on the “ground level” before it happens to hit top 40.
watching new bands play here is a little bit scary. new bands don’t pack a house, so i get nervous for the guys who i’m sure are a bit nervous for themselves. it seems to me that the larger the crowd the better. the nerves kick in when folks are really paying attention. so, i’m sympathetically scared for the new bands. but to see an established band play here? that can be nothing short of breathtaking. there’s something very private, very secretive about it that makes my blood rush.
that night had elements of that, as i’ve been a long time fan of will kimbrough’s. he took the stage in an unassuming yet entirely commanding manner and from his second line of the first song you knew: he’d done this before. not because he looked haggard from it, as many do, but because he just….well, belonged there. to me that’s the ‘it’ factor, no matter how it’s packaged.
he sang primarily off of his record, americanitis, a politically charged, verbally raw thing that hints around at the corners of brilliance. but he did a few from old records that i love. one of which includes the song ‘piece of work’ which is in every way that. but one of the lines struck me between the eyes tonight.
“well the lord made me on a long thin limb, made sure i’d remember him…”
i thought about that line the rest of the night because i think it sums up this thing we casually call a ‘walk with God’. most of my life i’ve done best in my walk with God when faced w/ uncomfortable odds. when the wind blows the hardest, i fly the highest. when the weight stacks up on my shoulders, i stand the straightest. it’s the comfortable days that scare me. that lull me into believing that a hard rain won’t come again. the comfortable days make me forget the urgency of this walk and that it really isn’t a walk. it’s a mad dash to get as far as you can possibly get.
god did make me on the end of a long thin limb so that in the comfortable days, i’d still feel the sway of the branch in the breeze. i’d still feel the need for him even when i couldn’t see the way. i haven’t always loved that branch nor the need for it but the older i get the more i see his wisdom in using it.
my independent streak is something that i try to embrace and in that embrace there are things that i love and things i don’t love as much. knowing this, god fashioned me to be in that shakey and uncertain place of a long thin limb, lest my cocky independence get the better of me.
and when it does, as it inevitably does and will, and i teeter around on my swaying branch, i come quickly to grips with who i am and who i am not. loathe as i am to admit it, sometimes i fall. when the ground comes rushing up at me, just before impact, i remember, as i should in all moments but don’t, that i know the guy who makes the wind, that makes my branch move, that keeps me dependent, because he knows how i’m bent.
i just think it’s pretty kick ass that he not only allowed for my independent streak when he was dreaming me up but went ahead and crafted a plan to keep me close to him with it.
as i listened to the lyrics from will’s record, it seemed pretty brave to me that he was standing there saying things that he believes, popular or not. he’s saying things he’d be less for not saying. they might not be comfortable odds, but he’s showing up anyway with all of who he is. maybe he’s on a long thin limb, too. but he’s jumping up and down on it. his little lyrical and stylistic act of bravery, actually, makes me a little more thankful that my footing isn’t too sturdy. it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if it were.