January and February have proven to be a very active season for politics, cinema, sports, and music. We kicked off the year with the Golden Globes, the Grammys, and the Oscars. Not to mention the Superbowl Half-Time show. As always, these gatherings contain very emotionally charged moments, speeches, and performances. They spark a litany of both support and dissent from people on Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. We co-sign celebrities who align with our interests. We cancel those who do not. In the midst of celebration, our sinister and skeptical nature seeps through the cracks. The brokenness of our humanity cries out in lament.
Anyone: A Modern-Day Psalm of Lament
As the centerpiece of all of these events, we saw Demi Lovato take center stage in the middle of the Grammys. For the first time since her overdose in 2018, she breaks her silence with a song. As my friend called it: “a modern-day psalm of lament.”
Barely able to find her voice in the first moments, as her cry cracks through her voice, she pauses and restarts the song – revealing the depths of meaning in her psalm. The audience with a pregnant silence anticipating what her new psalm will reveal.
In the opening stanza of Anyone, Demi cries:
“I tried to talk to my piano
I tried to talk to my guitar
Talk to my imagination
Confided into alcohol
I tried and tried and tried some more
Told secrets ’til my voice was sore
Tired of empty conversation
‘Cause no one hears me anymore”
We hear the lament in Demi’s voice. She cries out, but no one hears her. She is forsaken. Not unlike the lamentation of King David in Psalm 22, which Jesus himself quotes on the cross:
“My God, my God, why have forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
And by night, but I find no rest.”
We – like Demi, David, and Jesus – have all experienced moments of lament. Moments where the weight of brokenness, cries out and we wonder:
“Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone, oh
Anyone, please send me anyone
Lord, is there anyone?
I need someone”
Demi wrote and recorded this modern-day psalm of lament just 4 days before her drug overdose. She shares in an interview with Zane Lowe, that as she listens back, she hears her cry for help and wonders why no one thought this person needs help. She tells Zane: “The lyrics were so far deep in my soul – asking for help – that you can feel that when you listen to it.”
In many ways, Anyone, and Demi’s performance in the middle of all of these awards ceremonies and performances over the past several weeks, is a prophetic lamentation of the cry of our humanity.
Perhaps this psalm is your cry or perhaps it is the cry of someone in your life who wants anyone to hear them, to see them, to know them. Will we listen? Are we 4 days from our own drug overdoses? From trying to fix our brokenness with experiences, relationships, substances?
The deep divisiveness of our current cultural moment reveals we are not okay. But we – as followers of Christ – are also failing to hear the cry. The lament of a culture crying out for anyone to hear them. Could we be the ears of Christ?
Incarnational Listening in the Way of Christ
For the past several months, I’ve been fleshing out descriptions of spiritual practices for our church family to focus on in this season of our journey. One of those spiritual practices is the practice of Incarnational Listening. The way that I’ve described incarnational listening is listening beyond the surface to what God may be saying. God is still speaking, if we will have ears hear. God’s primary way of communication is through words – in the beginning was the word, God spoke and it was, Jesus is the “word made flesh”. The word was incarnated. God is always speaking, if we will have ears to hear.
While I won’t go into all of the specific ways to practice incarnational listening here, what is important for us as students of Rabbi Jesus is to learn the way that Jesus listened. He listened to people, he listened to culture, he listened to the times, he listened between the lines of what people said. He listened, so that he could speak into what he heard. He listened, so that he could speak life, hope, peace, unity, liberation, and love into those who wondered “does anyone hear me?”
The way Jesus listened was incarnational, because by listening beyond the surface his responses would embody the Kingdom of God in personal, physical, and prophetic ways. As Jesus listened, he could tailor his message to meet the needs of people and to invite them into God’s family in ways that were contextual for them.
His model of incarnational listening is an important practice for us to cultivate as students and co-laborers with Jesus. Perhaps now more than ever. As we cry out, as our culture cries out, as our friends cry out, as our family members cry out: “Anyone, please send me anyone, Lord, is there anyone? I need someone.”
The Lord wants to send you.
To the forsaken.
To the broken.
To the vagabonds.
To the sleepwalkers.
To the hopeless.
Will you have ears to hear?
May We Be The “Anyone” Who The Lord Sends
At the end of her interview with Zane, Demi shares that part of her recovery was returning to a church community. She acknowledges that she didn’t always feel welcome, because people were judgmental of her. But that one night she went with her friend a Bible study and she says:
“I heard God clearer than I had heard him in a long time. I tried to seek God through other experiences – whether other relationships or substances. I had to realize that the God that I’m seeking, the God that I love, and the God that I want to be my God is available 24/7, always at an arm’s length, and constantly with me. Feeling that shift. I feel safer and renewed.”
Will you have ears to hear?
The first time I heard Demi’s performance, I was gutted inside. Her words landed in a place in my soul that understood her psalm of lament. Of moments when I needed anyone to hear and I felt like no one heard. When I, like Demi, could say: “I feel stupid when I pray. So, why am I praying anyway? If nobody’s listening.”
As I listened and have relistened to Demi’s performance and to Anyone, I cannot help but hear my own journey through the dark nights of the soul and the prophetic lament of others who we see everyday crying out for help and for hope.
Will we have ears to heart?
Will we listen to the cries?
Will we respond with a message of hope?
Will we be the “anyone” the Lord is sending to those who just need anyone?
Let’s walk together.