God Singing the Blues
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. – Psalm 104:33 (NRSV)
Saturday afternoons in my Spellman household were always filled with the blues. Tuned into WPFW: Nap Turner programmed DC’s airwaves to hear the blues together on his show: Don’t Forget the Blues.
Some will say that the blues are a way of life.
Or, as August Wilson wrote into Ma Rainey’s voice: “You don’t sing to feel better. You sing because that’s a way of understanding life. Blues help you get out of bed in the morning. You get up because you know you aren’t alone.”
Or, as my dad put it: “The blues is what you sing when your woman done left you and you can’t pay the rent.”
And what I really appreciate about the country’s seeming new interest in the blues, as inspired by the latest film release of the August Wilson play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Blues, is that right now is a great time to sit with the blues.
But here’s the thing:
There’s a misconception that the blues are all about sorrow. But that’s not true. The blues are about human experience. They explore the depth of human emotion. Rooted in the Black American experience in the Jim Crow South, the blues explores what it means to find joy and expression in the midst of … some stuff.
And in a time when misinformation – actually lies – run rampant, we need authenticity and truth more than ever.
We need to understand that we can feel more than one way about things.
We need to be okay with laughing one moment and crying the next.
God still does the new thing.
God still brings new life.
God still looks at the most vulnerable place on earth, and shows up there.
God, you know the blues. Sing with us. You sure do treat us right. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.