Over at MakeJesusCulture.com we had Latiphah Alattis talk about songwriting, but in the midst of it she grew very honest about her father’s funeral. Her father died young, all things considered, and she was a younger woman when it happened. As a Christian songwriter, the despair really sang pretty deep into her melancholy spirit and festered there. Meanwhile, the parishioners and fellow citizens all passed her by ignorant of the depths of her grief.
There in the corner of the funeral home sat an old upright piano, unloved and unused. This songwriter sat down at its keys and began to punch out minor chords, pressing and pausing, punctuating the moment with the minor mood, the black of ebony over the white ivory.
And a song came to her quicker than any song had come before or has come since. A song she sang in her youth in Sunday School. But it came out sour, it came out bitter, it came out with the longing that CS Lewis described in Surprised by Joy:
“Joy—that sharp, wonderful Stab of Longing—has a lithe, muscular lightness to it. It’s deft. It produces longing that weighs heavy on the heart, but it does so with precision and coordination…It dashes in with the agility of a hummingbird claiming its nectar from the flower, and then zips away. It pricks, then vanishes, leaving a wake of mystery and longing behind it.
“It is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”
The song was Joy, Joy, Joy and she sang it sad: I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart. And I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart.
It reminds me of Paul in Philippians. Paul, malnourished and alone. Paul, cut off from his friend. Paul, stuck chained to the wall in a Roman prison.
And wrote the book of joy.
Count it all joy brothers.
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.
How does grief make you long for the divine? For the true heart of all of your desires?
*For further reading in the Bible: Philippians 1; Philippians 2; Philippians 3; Philippians 4
Accompanying this study is over 300-Hours of video footage from 150 of today’s top Christian thinkers on culture, creativity, innovation, and invention at www.makejesusculture.com and www.gardencityproject.com. We aim to help churches develop grass roots culture formation for their contexts. Go now!