A few years ago, on a cold winter afternoon outside of Philadelphia, I stood alone at the edge of a forest and wondered aloud where God had gone. The sunny field behind me was covered with a bright crust of snow, but the pines in front of me were somber and dark. What are your plans for me? I asked God. What now?
One of my homeless clients had been stabbed earlier that week in front of my workplace, and I'd followed his blood several blocks to the hospital. The cops said my client was lucky. Had he been stabbed at a quieter time, his assailant would've finished the job.
Street violence had become almost a mundane thing for me, but this experience set an awful new precedent. I couldn't stop thinking about the ragged trail of brown drops. With that thought came a sneaking suspicion that God had left me holding the bag.
Faith, I learned for the first time that winter, is often more struggle than peace. Since then I've looked for artists who can express that struggle.
Minneapolis-based indie folk duo Peter Wolf Crier gets it. In their song "Untitled 101," singer/songwriter Peter Pisano articulates a poignant blend of love and loneliness and spiritual darkness. Combined with Brian Moen's nuanced instrumentation, the piece is stunning.
The two hit a powerful stride by the song's climax. "Lord, I'm yours to take" Pisano belts straight from his chest. "Although bruised I've got life within these legs." Moen's beats reverberate that intense longing. "By your word make me whole" Pisano continues, "Send your saints for me / by my sword I will pray to keep."
They put into music what I still try to comprehend. That winter I developed a panicky, grasping need to recapture my sense of God. If I talked to one more addict, if I helped one more homeless family, if I brought one more ounce of stability to my battered neighborhood, God might return.
Of course that says more about my own vanity than it does about God, and I quickly worked myself into a very dark place. It took the strength and faith of some dear friends to lead me out of it. If saints teach us humility and patience, then those friends became my saints.
Peter Wolf Crier's salty emotional candor is why their album, Inter-Be, is a mainstay on my playlist. Not all of the tracks hit as hard as "Untitled 101" -- some hit you harder, and in a different, earthy way. Each is polished and muscular. You remember these songs.
And while I'm several years beyond my time in Philadelphia, I haven't yet returned to the place of spiritual comfort I knew before those experiences. Maybe I never will. But I do enjoy listening to this track. I like its honest prayer and hint of hope. And I can't help but have faith that someday God's plans for me will be revealed.
Lord I want your kiss
Would not beg for one more if one’s all you’d give
Send your grace I’ll enlist your army
Be that you’ll find some place for me.
Lord show me your face
Show me once and I’ll keep you all my days
Will be tamed not conspire to treasure seek
Once my eyes find your skin in reach.
Lord I’m yours to take
Although bruised I’ve got life within these legs
By your word make me whole
Send your saints for me
By my sword I will pray to keep.
Love for thee I pledge to keep
Once when you find some plan for me.
© Peter Pisano 2010
Check Peter Wolf Crier out here.