on listening and the hard-core
There’s a boy a few tables over from me outside this coffee shop. He has the bangs and a studded belt, and he wears it all dark and heavy. He feels different. He nods his head to the bothered music.
He smokes like an old man, the cigarette carefully lipped, puffing. His feet prop crossed on the table. He leans way back, waiting. His chain touches the ground.
And now up walks his Grandma. She knows I watch. He raises and effortlessly flicks the plume to the gravel. She wears panty hose under her elastic pants and sandals with velcro. She’s a foot-tapper. He leans forward. His hands hold his knees, and he talks so gently. She’s listening. He’s explaining. She’s laughing. She’s laughing a real laugh.
And she loves him so good. They stand and embrace. She doesn’t trace the outline of his face with her eyes. She doesn’t stare another hole in his ear. She is just happy to know him. He smiles because of her at goodbye.
I remember walking down Dickson Street long enough after my salvation that it surprised me when I heard the bass line to a Nine Inch Nail song and recalled every single word. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days afterward. It spoke to me of the power of music and how it serves the memory and the heart.
I knew our first year of marriage, when we were youth ministers, the power of dark music and of claiming an identity with my clothes. We made rules back then to keep our kids safe. We taught how wrong it was to give your mind to anything other than “the Word of God.”
And there was a boy, with long black hair, and he had two TOOL t-shirts he rotated. The butt of his pants stayed between his knees, and we chastised him, implored him to live right, to think better of himself, to identify with Christ. We begged.
And only once did he try to explain about the music and no one understanding and the parents and the pain. We weren’t listening. We thought he disrespected.
And almost ten years later, after more life, after seeing more lowness of our own humanity, we drive home from Louisiana and listen to a station that reminds us of high school. After a gorgeous run of the bass and the drums kick in, and my heart starts racing, and I enter the music, I remember how good it is to hear the order – even in the chaos. Maynard’s voice is God-made.
Had I listened to him for just a minute, what would have come of God’s love in that boy? What would have come of it in me?