Posted by: ritagone | June 9, 2010

A Conundrum

There’s a song written by Benny Andersson, of ABBA fame, and his songwriting partner, Bjorn Ulvaeus, that I think captures perfectly what doubt about God’s existence and His goodness does to a person internally.  It’s from a musical called “Kristina from Duvemala,” which chronicles Swedish immigrants to the United States in the 19th century, the hardships they endured to start a new life as farmers and businessmen.  The musical was a huge hit in Sweden and was recently done in concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

This particular song is called “You Have to Be There,” and it’s sung toward the end of the musical, when the main character, Kristina, has suffered a miscarriage and is despondent.  Stick with me while I share the lyrics with you, because I have an interesting point to make after you’ve read them.

 

“You have banished me from the land where I was born.

Here upon a foreign shore forsaken,

I have followed you and done thy will.

Never so alone, so remote, so far from home.

One by one my little ones you’ve taken,

Everywhere I turn it’s darker still.

What is it, Lord, that you want and that I am not seeing?

What in my innocent prayers am I failing to say?

Never before have I questioned the truth of your being.

Never once have I dared, never until today.

All of a tremble I stand on the edge of confusion,

Who is to save me if into the darkness I fall?

Now that I need more than ever my God to be near me,

Do you hear when I call?  Are you there after all?

You have to be there, you have to, my life I have placed in thy keep.

And without you I am drifting on a dark and stormy sea.

You have to be there, you have to, without you I drown in the deep.

Too far, too far from land, the waters drag me down, I reach for your hand.

Who, when I die, will throw open his arms to receive me?

Who will believe me and take me into his embrace?

When I have come to my rest, will you watch me and wake me?

When my time comes at last, will you grant me your grace?

I am so small on this earth, I am nothing without you.

Daring to doubt you at all turns a knife in my heart.

Little by little I’m losing my way in the shadows.

I am losing my hold, and the world falls apart.

You have to be there, you have to, my life I have placed in thy keep.

And without you I am drifting on a dark and stormy sea.

You have to be there, you have to, without you I drown in the deep.

Too far, too far from land, the waters drag me down, I reach for your hand.

You have to be there, you have to, without you I drown in the deep.

Too far, too far from land, the waters drag me down, I reach for your hand.”

            Now to me, this is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard which captures what doubt feels like: the abandonment, the confusion, the loneliness that occur when it feels like God isn’t present in our lives.  And yet one of the writers, Mr. Ulvaeus, is a member of the Swedish Humanist Association and an avowed atheist.

How is this possible?

How can someone even ask God why He isn’t there when he doesn’t believe God exists?  And, more significantly, how can someone write a song like this – a song reaching out to God with such strong emotion – when they don’t believe in God?

I don’t get it.

It’s not fair.

How can an atheist write music that so captures what a believer feels struggling with whether or not God is there and “for” him or her?  Where does that come from, that internal recognition of what’s going on in a soul?  (Like “The Prayer” by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager, one of the most articulate lyrics about what we pray for, why, and what it gives us, and I’m assuming here that these two are not Jesus followers as you and I would define that term.  Again, it’s amazing!)

I think the answer lies in the reality that God has put His whispered call into each person, and when they tap into that call, they respond with tremendous insightful creativity (if they are the creative type).  The very God they claim to reject and that they don’t really know is the One who is whispering poignant and insightful words into their minds and hearts, which flow onto the page and into the instruments.

So, Bjorn, go ahead and join your atheistic society.  I for one think God has His hand on you.  Whether you get it or not, you are being touched by God.  I pray that you will see it.

I pray that we all will see it – that God is wanting to speak through each one of us to the world that needs something good to listen to.

 

Regards, Rita

 

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