Counting Down (Tuesday): “We’re All Working the Graveyard Shift”

[Read the introduction to this series of “Counting Down” posts here. And remember you can zoom in to make the font bigger by holding down your control key (CTRL) and pressing the plus sign (+).]

Thanks to a mini miracle, J & I found ourselves at three Over the Rhine concerts last weekend in Cincinnati: Friday night was a special “world-premiere” concert of their new album that will be released early next year, Saturday night was a holiday concert at the Taft downtown, and Sunday was their annual “Sunday Soiree” at St. Elizabeth’s.

There were a handful of songs that were performed at each of the shows. One of those, which is also one of my favorites from their new album, The Long Surrender, is worth a mention as we countdown to the end of Advent. Here’s an excerpt:

All my favorite people are broken. Believe me, my heart should know. Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers, step forward: You’re welcome. You’re safe right here. You don’t have to go. . . Is each wound you’ve received just a burdensome gift? It gets so hard to lift yourself up off the ground. But the poet says we must praise a mutilated world; we’re all working the graveyard shift–you might as well sing along.

— From “All My Favorite People,” on The Long Surrender (which you can buy online here for an immediate download)

Linford introduced the song by mentioning how difficult it was to write. No, not difficult, but rather that there was something in this song that just needed to wait to be revealed, and that they’ve been working through it, waiting on it, wrestling with it, for four or five years now.

There’s something about it, though, that really resonates with people. You could feel it in the audience, among those of us who knew the song and those of us who were hearing it for the first time. Maybe there are just lots of orphaned believers and skeptical dreamers hanging around these parts. Maybe we know brokenness when see it. When we feel it. When we say, yes, that’s me, too.

All my favorite people are broken…

What is it in this song that just feels real to me? Well, it reminds me of how the world tends to work, how the world is. It’s a good Advent song because it calls us both to attention and to acceptance of our brokenness. Life isn’t perfect. It’s hard.

But it’s beautiful, too.

You’re safe right here…

Advent is about creating a space that is safe, where the ugliness of the world and of ourselves is open and revealed. It’s only when we can look straight at ourselves and the world that something more–miraculously–can be revealed to us. Only when we love others, the world, and ourselves, in all our fear, and pain, and brokenness, can we be we prepared to see. To really see.

We’re all working the graveyard shift…

This is my favorite line because it’s so loaded–we’re all in it, it’s late at night, and it’s dirty. Still, we are called to be community to each other.

We’re in this brokenness together, folks. And that’s part of the waiting of Advent, too. I’m not good at that part and haven’t been feeling up to it lately. I don’t like being up late, for one thing, or being uncomfortable and dirty, and most of the time, quite frankly, I don’t feel like singing.

That’s another reason why this song is good for me.

…you might as well sing along.

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2 comments on “Counting Down (Tuesday): “We’re All Working the Graveyard Shift”

  1. Elaine says:

    I agree with everything you say, but there are two lines here in the song I don’t agree with – you must lift yourself up. Personally, I’m counting on God to do that – I can’t. I am also not an orphaned believer – God is my Father, and has promised not to leave or forsake. But this could just be nitpicking. I understand the essence of the message. Merry Christmas!

    • elizabeth says:

      Elaine,
      Thanks for your feedback! And while I do think this is a fair interpretation, I hear both lines differently, probably because I am familiar with the entire song and album. (I certainly haven’t done the song justice by ripping a few lines out of context like I’ve done in this blog post.) It’s good for me to be provoked to think through things more, though, so here are some further thoughts.

      I actually think the line about lifting yourself off the ground is suggesting just the opposite–not that we “must” do it, as you say, but that it is nearly impossible to do even though it seems like it’s the only option sometimes. And lots of people do think it’s the only option. Rather than lifting ourselves up (which even the church has often tried to do–think of the Pharisees), I think the song could be calling us to a more sacramental way of seeing the world–that we can see God here in the present, difficult world if only we will look.

      As for the “orphaned” believers line, well, lots of people feel like this, even within the church. Sometimes especially within the church. They’re still welcome though! I don’t think the line is a factual statement about orphanhood, but more a statement of the way we often feel isolated from each other and alone.

      The other thing to keep in mind is that Over the Rhine is not “Christian” music, but I do think it is thoughtful and has a lot to offer us.

      Thanks again for your comments! I appreciate you. 🙂

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