The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 15: For the love of Mumford.

Henri, Tell Your Story in Freedom: 

The years that lie behind you, with all their struggles and pains, will in time be remembered only as the way that led to your new life. But as long as the new life is not fully yours, your memories will continue to cause you pain. When you keep reliving painful events of the past, you feel victimized by them. But there is a way of telling your story that does not create pain. Then, also, the need to tell your story will become less pressing. You will see that you are no longer there: the past is gone, the pain has left you, you no longer have to go back and relive it, you no longer depend on your past to identify yourself.

There are two ways of telling your story. One is to tell it compulsively and urgently, to keep returning to it because you see your present suffering as the result of your past experiences. But there is another way. You can tell your story from the place where it no longer dominates you. You can speak about it with a certain distance and see it as the way to your present freedom. The compulsion to tell your story is gone. From the perspective of the life you now life and the distance you now have, your past does not loom over you. It has lost its weight and can be remembered as God’s way of making you more compassionate and understanding of others.


Allrighty, dear readers.
Here’s something completely different.
I recently (just now) wrote the article below for a magazine media/faith column. Henri’s comments today helped me think through writing the article, Mumford and Sons remind me that there is something so much greater to look forward to than hurt – and since everything is all connected anyway, I included it below here.

(Feedback is very welcome, especially from any fellow Mumford lovers!)

Buying the 2009 Mumford and Sons album Sigh No More was an incredibly foolish decision.
It was an impulse buy in the intoxicating halls of Amoeba Music, a purchase based on a small snipppets of these British folks rock songs I had just vaguely heard. I romantically chose the vinyl record over the CD or online mp3 download, forgetting that I would have to lug this large purchase on my walk through San Francisco, deal with the eventual warping and skipping, and enjoy Mumford solely in the stationary presence of my record player.

It was a fantastic decision.
Mumford has taught me much about forgiveness, redemption, and the hope that from God comes a love that far surpasses any imperfect human love we experience. This impulse buy was exactly what was needed to breathe God’s good life into me at a time when it felt far off.

My experience of romantic love has not been altogether perfect… It seems this is a common burden, hoping for people to love us perfectly and then coming to the harsh realization that they are merely people. (Go figure.) Turning on the radio, one finds romance everywhere – confessions of head-over-heels infatuation, frustration and sorrow at love gone wrong, blame toward that two-timin’ woman or that man who can’t be trusted. But from Mumford, I heard something entirely different, that took me by surprise: an apology.

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really f*ed it up this time
Didn’t I, my dear?

This raw confession comes from “Little Lion Man,” with the popular edited version never quite capturing the intensity of what it means to blunder so badly. For whatever the reason, these men singing are passionately apologetic, recognizing the damage caused, and begging for forgiveness. In the album’s title song, there is an equally passionate and mournful cry of the simple I’m sorry.

I wish I could hear the people who’ve hurt my heart sing out these lyrics, cursing and all. God knows the times I need to sing them out as well, cursing and all. There is something about owning the pain, crying out in repentance and hope for reconciliation… that restores my faith in that reconciliation. It reminds me to forgive, even when nobody may come serenading me with the words of Mumford.

Mumford has pushed me to forgive those I thought I might never forgive. And Mumford has given me hope that others can forgive me when I do not deserve it in the least. This is redemption in action.

What sustains my hope for redemption is this vision of love that Mumford offers, a vision of love that is nothing short of the beautiful kingdom of God…

Love, it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment
A cry of my heart to see
The beauty of love as it was made to be

In the same breath that the men of Mumford take ownership of humanity’s shortcomings, they proclaim a love boundless and fulfilling – the love we were meant to encounter in relationship with God. They call us to pursue this love, as they sing  Awake my soul, for you were made to meet your maker.

What motivates me to forgive is not assurance that humanity will drastically change, that the love I receive from people will somehow become perfect, that romance will suddenly turn easy. What motivates me to forgive is knowing that there is something bigger and better than human romance in store… From the album’s closing track “After the Storm,” the music of Mumford articulates a hope that I cannot resist, a hope that echoes this kingdom we seek.

But there will come a time, you’ll see
With no more tears
And love will not break your heart
But dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair

Mumford reminds me that this love – the love that will not break my heart – is real, and is worth hoping for.


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One thought on “Day 15: For the love of Mumford.

  1. Just an FYI if you are looking to publish the said article about Mumford and Sons, most of the lyrics from their song, Sigh No More, are quotes from Shakespeare, specifically Much Ado About Nothing, and would need to be quoted as such.

    Great article. :)

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