Guitar, flowers, music

Urgency not haste

I lost a friend this past spring, a beautiful local artist who married one of my closest friends many years ago. All these months later the grief is still just below the surface: tears still fill up at the mention of a name and the heavy lump in my chest is always quick to the surface. I’ve realized I’m not only grieving the loss of my friend but also the ramifications on other relationships and parts of my life. I am also mourning the fact that I kept this friend at arms-length out of fear of being a “fan friend,” not understanding until it was too late that he’d never have seen me that way.

During the chaos of funeral preparations I was at a stop light lost in my thoughts. The same CD had been playing in my car for months, had faded into background noise, but suddenly one line seemed to literally fling itself into my consciousness: “I will love with urgency not with haste.” The line carried megatons of meaning in that moment, thinking of my friend who was gone and the impact he’d had on so many people. He made people feel seen, and beautiful, and important, and worthwhile. I realized one couldn’t live a more significant life than to leave a trail of people feeling those things and inspiring them to pass it along. I think the way I felt when I was with Vin is the closest I’ll get to how Mary Magdalene or Zacchaeus felt after an afternoon with Jesus.

These words, “I will love with urgency not with haste,” have been reverberating in my soul since that day. The context of the entire song is one of hope for a future love of intimacy, vulnerability, freedom, and acceptance. I can look back at my life and be full of regret for opportunities lost, relationships broken or missed, mistakes. Or I can learn from some of the amazing people I’ve known, risk myself a little, and open myself up to all the opportunities I’m presented with every day to engage new people and experience new things. I’ve lived with so much fear of rejection and failure as an adult that I barely remember that self-forgetting abandon with which I approached life before my heart was broken by the world. As cheesy as it sounds, losing my friend changed something in me. I don’t want to be defined by a few bad relationships when I could be defined by myriad amazing failures and successes because I was willing to risk something of myself. I want to spend my life on healing and loving and accepting and breathing and incarnating and kindness. I want to be poured out into the lives of other people, and I’d rather carry the wounds of having been rejected by some than the empty coldness of aloof safety.

I want to be present with others and present in my own life. I want to experience the life God’s given me, to be exhausted not from struggling against the world but from engaging it with all my faculties. I want to have given the gift of presence to the people I encounter. Because I never expected to have so little time with my friends, thought there were years ahead of us. And I’ve rushed through too many conversations, too many chances for connection. The time is urgent, but haste is destructive.

That moment when “I will love with urgency not with haste” sliced through the haze of my grief has become symbolic of the power music’s always had in my life to teach and transform and awaken and pierce me. Music has bound up my wounds, has set me free, has paved the road to healing from heartbreak, has given voice to screams of rage and shouts of joy I couldn’t muster on my own. Music’s been a constant means of God’s voice into my life since I can remember. From my first Beach Boys cassette to KZ-93 to Madison Greene, music has connected me to both the spiritual and material worlds. Before I knew God, I knew the power of His voice through the poetry and sounds of music. I contend that the most beautiful sound in the world is that of an acoustic guitar backed by the crackle of a fire under a clear night sky. I used to feel like an imposter because I can’t create music but have always been surrounded by musicians. Now I just try to be grateful that God’s given me a love of something and the means to encounter it often.

The stories behind the rest of my tattoos are rooted in ancient history, stories written over the course of many years or about events that occurred a long time ago. This one is different. The story of this tattoo began in March of this year and is still very much being written. But I want the impact of all of this to inform the rest of the story. I do in fact feel an urgency about needing to learn to be present and take risks on people. I feel an almost desperate need to remember that feeling of regret that clouded my vision during my friend’s funeral so that I never, ever have to feel it again. And I want the power and beauty of that line of music to drive my decisions. I don’t want another line of the story to be written without that moment in mind.

I had in mind a very plain, front-facing, two-dimensional red guitar with a few flowers around it and the words “With urgency not with haste” framing it. The flowers represent beauty in the moment, beauty that won’t last forever but is vibrant and fragrant here and now. I sent this all to my guy in Chicago and told him I was totally open to his design (unlike when he suffered through my pin-up). I showed up a month or so later, and was visibly taken aback by what he had come up with. It was over-the-top traditional, with tattoo roses I never imagined having on me, and huge. My reaction worried him at first, but I asked him to just give me a minute to adjust. And in that minute I absolutely fell in love with it. The only thing I asked him to change was the guitar since his original design had an electric. He chose the colors, the script, and was able to fit in more of the lyric than I’d expected. In total the appointment lasted about five hours; now I know my max tolerance for pain is four hours. He seemed so excited about the freedom he had with the design I loved it even more. Consider this my official plug for letting a genuine artist tattoo you and not some random dude with a gun in his basement who is great at copying Guns ‘N’ Roses album covers. Now that it’s fully healed I feel like I’ve crossed some “tattoo’d person” line. People stop and ask about this one more than any other, and while it’s still hard for me to articulate its full meaning in a sound bite (or lengthy blog post) I love having the chance to share the idea of making every moment count (insert cheesy inspirational photo here).

This isn’t a tribute tattoo to my friend, though I had considered adding something specific to him in the design. It’s a tribute to the kind of life that seems to really impact people, to matter. It’s a tribute to what I think it means to live in the fullness, freedom, and love of Christ. I want to do more than never forget; I want to always remember. The beauty of my life is to be presence, risk, hope, scandalous love that creates a music that lingers long after I’m gone.


1 Comment

  1. August 18, 2014 at 12:46 am

    […] loved, falling in love,  being loved and over the past few years specifically the idea of loving with urgency. This last one comes from the impact of a line from Mumford and […]

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