True friendship is demonstrated on my bookshelves: Pride and Prejudice, The Great Divorce, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Freaken’ Fabulous can only stand sure & tall because of the bookends holding them up. Vases with flowers, framed photographs of my parents, old Ybor City cigar boxes – a myriad of objects and trinkets have been employed as bookends. If my books were the Notre Dame, the bookends would be the flying buttresses.
(I’m really glad I spent that semester studying in Paris so I could make that parallel)
Of course the word “Bookends” references something else too – it’s the title of a really really sad song by Simon and Garfunkel (a band I love entirely for sentimental reasons – my beautiful mother sings their songs while in the kitchen and always has funny commentary during the song “Cecelia” because no man should be wasting his time on her) (but I digress). Bookends as a title never made specific sense to me, not-so-interestingly enough, prior to this weekend.
Okay, hold that thought. We’re going to start talking about something seemingly unrelated but we’ll loop back.
Ya’ll know by now that I am crazy about the church I attended in Tampa. What won me over to Watermark initially was the incredible worship music. I’m not a singer nor am I a musician so how I praise God doesn’t usually involve music. There’s a misconception that “worship” means “music”, but they’re not synonymous. There’s a lot of contemporary generic worship songs out there and because I grew up in the church, I’ve heard them lots and lots and lots of times. Honestly, I find them slightly uninspired and a lot of the time I’m just singing words that mean nothing to me. They don’t make me think. They don’t explore multiple facets of our complex God. I don’t suggest that this indicates the songs are useless – God has taught me well that the way I experience Him does not mean it’s how everyone will experience Him, nor is it the most nobel of ways. Because I don’t necessarily feel connected to God while singing “You Are Good” doesn’t mean that no one should.
My very first Sunday at Watermark, three and a half years ago, the band played a song called Mournful Things. Immediately – before the teaching even began and before I met anyone in the church – I loved this church.
I mentioned this before – Watermark’s pastor is also a talented musician and song writer and if you love poetic verses that make you think, then you should immediately get his albums (almost all for free!) here. Even if you don’t, you should really listen to Mournful Things because 1. it’s one of my favorite songs ever written and 2. it’ll give you better insight into what I am writing about. Admittedly, I love this song most when it’s sung in congregation – shouts and claps and tears make everything more real – but it’s great on it’s own. Click here & listen.
Did you listen to it? Okay, great. Thanks for being so compliant, I appreciate it.
This past weekend I was visiting Tampa and it wasn’t at all the trip I was expecting. Without going into lots of detail, suffice it to say God showed me a lot of closed doors in Tampa. At least for the year, I’m not going to be heading back to Tampa. I have so many mixed feelings about this I’m exhausted just thinking about it. But God did something really cool in showing me that Tampa was a finished season. This Sunday was much.. heavier for me than the one before I moved to Memphis because suddenly I knew this was actually my last Sunday. There will be visits of course, I’m sure I’ll be back in the beautiful building, but God is taking me away for awhile. I cried through each of the firs three songs we sang… and then Tommy played Mournful Things. And I was overwhelmed with the idea of bookends. That song started my time at Watermark and it helped end my time at Watermark. It’s my bookends. And in between those bookends there has been so so much: so much learning about God, His word, and myself / so much laughter and joy and dancing with lovely souls / so many tearful communion tables / so many wonderful meals with a house church community I consider family / so many beautiful evenings spent with the women’s house church talking about difficult things and praying together / and yes, a fair share of sadness and some heartbreak – community is messy and hard things come with the good.
It’s so appropriate this song is used as my “bookends” because the title line depicts my leaving so well. It’s a joyous song of mournful things. I’m mournful to leave Tampa, but I’m joyous (most of the time) in following Christ. At the very least, I’m very joyous to have a God who is intentional in leading me. And a God who cares about little things, like a song I really really love.
After church at lunch I was told by a friend who works the sound that the band didn’t even plan on playing Mournful Things – Tommy last minute decided to play it. I like to think that God inclined Tommy to play that song, knowing how sentimental I am and what it would mean to me to have a nice bookend to hold up my chapters of my time at Watermark. Bookends.
sing sing sing! a joyous song of mournful things.