Counting Down: “Only God Can Save Us Now”

I haven’t tried to hide the fact that over the last two days, and for some time now, I’ve been thinking about brokenness–the world broken by poverty and hunger and injustice; broken social systems; broken churches; broken people who feel hopeless and abandoned. But I’ve also been thinking about broken bodies, the physical pain of living in this broken world.

In my family, as I write this, a loved one is lying in intensive care, in an unreliably conscious/unconscious/responsive state. I am not there to be with my family, to sit with those who are sitting and keeping vigil, wait with those who are waiting, or pray with those who are praying.

So I sit here. And I wait here. And I pray, often without words, as Advent trudges on, as bodies keep breaking, and the world seems big and dark. And sometimes it’s all too easy to forget what this waiting is all about. It’s not for naught, you could say. There is hope, even here, even in this waiting, even when it seems hard to locate it.

And that’s where Over the Rhine keeps sneaking into my thoughts. Karin Bergquist has written a gorgeous, haunting song about the nursing care facility where her mother, a retired nurse, now lives after suffering from a stroke. Karin took the time at each concert this weekend to tell the stories of the folks who show up in the song–each story, each broken and beautiful character in this tragedy/comedy. (Karin says that the tragedy is what we know and experience, and the comedy is the grace we’ve been given to deal with it.)

This is a song of compassion, of looking through the pain and the brokenness, of seeing hope,  of seeing what it is that we’re waiting for, as we wait in this season of Advent.

In this special song, there’s a refrain that is a quote from Geneva, one of the residents of the home, when Karin asked her how she was doing. Her response? “Only God can save us now.”

Here’s the opening of the song:

Margie struck Geneva with her baby doll. Barb knocked off the med cart coming down the hall. Bob leads the congregation with “How now brown cow”: Only God can save us now. Jean sings “Fuzzy wuzzy, fuzzy wuzzy was a bear.” Miss Cleve sings “Hallelujah” from the choir in her chair. Behind his busy apron, Raymond’s naked standing proud: Only God can save us now. . . Who will save me? From myself? And the night? . . . Only God can save us now.

– “Only God Can Save Us Now” from The Long Surrender.