If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (which you should because I’m a delight), you may have noticed I have a thing for The Killers. And by “thing” I mean love affair (completely one-sided of course, and only in the most platonic/non-creepy way). I adore them. Their music grabs hold of me every time. Each song speaks to me without fail and at just the right moment. And as someone who is rather ambivalent to music as a rule, my reaction to The Killers is different. Special. I would name them as my favorite band every time without hesitation. There is so much I love about them – the lyrics, the sound, Brandon Flowers’ gorgeous voice (swoon). All of it together fills me with peace; it’s like coming home. I would listen to them on repeat for the rest of my life and be completely content. I love them very much.
One of my favorite songs (perhaps of all time) is “Magdalena” from Brandon Flowers’ solo album Flamingo. This song is pure poetry to me. I smile every time I hear it; that secret smile because this song touches a place in my heart meant to be filled only by these lyrics. I close my eyes and let the music wrap around me. Whether I’m happy, content, sad, angry, depressed, frustrated, confused, Brandon Flowers can unlock the hidden recesses of my feelings and allow me to simply be. It’s a gorgeous thing.
The song opens with “Please don’t tell me I can’t make it; it ain’t gonna do me any good. And please don’t offer me your modern methods; I’m fixin’ to carve this out of wood.” The first time I heard this, I thought it was about independence and reaching for your dreams; doing what you love, whether the easy or the hard way. Or maybe just doing it your way – the only way you know how. But I’ve changed my mind, I think. Because while I think that is a lovely message, I see more in the song now. It offers me a different solace; a new encouragement.
As I listen to it in this moment, the song speaks of grace. Of forgiveness. Of new beginnings. Of second chances. But it isn’t a simple journey that Flowers tells. It isn’t a matter of merely saying, “I’m going to start again.” It’s a bit of a struggle. It’s difficult. But it is so very worth it.
Flowers talks about 60 miles of scared road somewhere in the reaches of Mexico. And if you are able to make the pilgrimage, you are promised to be relieved of your burdens by San Francisco (St. Francis of Assisi). But it’s not easy. Flowers sings of “Blisters on my feet, wooden rosary, I felt them in my pocket as I ran. A bullet in the night, a Federales’ light. San Francisco, do you understand?” It’s unpleasant, demanding both physically and emotionally, and it is draining. But as Flowers’ says in the beginning, he won’t be talked out of it. He will go the hard way. He doesn’t need modern methods or an easy out. He will venture the 60 miles in the broken heart of Mexico where he knows he can be forgiven and relieved of the burdens he carries. He needs to do this.
And in this I see the message of grace. Flowers’ sings, in my most absolute favorite piece of lyrics I’ve ever heard, “Prodigal sons and wayward daughters…be delivered from the depths of darkness and born again by candlelight.” I adore that, the image and the sentiment. Those who are lost and broken and feel unworthy can, at the end of the struggle with the darkness, be reborn by the beauty and softness of candlelight. It’s a gentle but powerful light. It shines bright no matter how deep we’ve fallen. And it revives us, leaves us renewed, clean. And we can celebrate that.
The journey towards grace is not an easy one. Not because the grace itself isn’t there, because God is always ready and willing to bestow it upon us. However, I believe that we have difficulty accepting that grace. We think it should be an easy moment. And perhaps in some ways it is, because we don’t have to work or earn grace. And maybe because of that, we can’t imagine we deserve it.
We need to be willing to carry our sins, our regrets, our mistakes, our tears, and our disappointments to God. We need to face all the bad that has brought us down in to the darkness. We need to bring it all to Him. We need to understand and recognize the things that bring us shame. We need to look to ourselves and say we are ready, finally ready, to give them up. We are ready to move on. We are ready to leave the shame behind. It is time for a new beginning, to be born again by candlelight.
And if, some day in the distant future, we fall into the temptation once again and find ourselves mired by the darkness, we can always come back. We can make the journey once again, the journey to forgiveness and grace. We can as a “two-timed beggar” seek the mercy of our amazing and loving God who sees our hearts and knows they are true. We can go back down the broken road and find redemption. He will always be there, in the midst of the struggle and at the end of it, with open arms and a gentle way. He is our candlelight, lighting the way to our new beginning.
Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining.