It's a weird irony that in the age of tell-all books, talk show confessionals, and soul-baring social media posts, the contemporary Christian church, which (thanks to God's inexhaustible love and mercy) should be the premium confessional venue, often neglects the confession of sin as a necessary part of the spiritual life. Alabama worship leader and songwriter Wendell Kimbrough is dropping a new album called Psalms We Sing Together later this month, and the opening track, "Then At Last (Psalm 32)", is a unique and potent ode to the simple confession and to the supernatural healing that comes to us through "the love of God and the family of grace".
Kimbrough says that he penned the song just a week before recording the album, and only wound up including it because producer Isaac Wardell (the genius mastermind behind Bifrost Arts) pushed him to do so. But the song, a brass-backed folk-rock jam à la The Band, ended up provoking the most significant response of almost any of the record's other compositions - after sharing it with his congregation for the first time, several members approached Kimbrough to tell him how powerfully it had spoken to them, including one man with tears in his eyes.
Kimbrough explains the specific inspiration for the song:
In Psalm 32, David is telling what I think is a very human and familiar story. He was hiding the broken parts of his life. He was traveling through life trying to keep people (and God) from seeing the parts of himself that were wrong, broken, inadequate. We all do this. On one level it's necessary to survival, but it ultimately sabotages our lives. In my life, I know I've spent enormous amounts of energy trying to hide the broken parts of me from myself, from God, and especially from my community. The voice of shame tells us, "If you show your brokenness and weakness, you will be rejected." But the irony David highlights in this psalm is that, when he kept silent and hidden, his life deteriorated. It's the very act of hiding that isolates us from intimacy, fellowship, and love.
The turning point of the psalm is when David finally says, "I will confess!" And he speaks out--he tells his friends and his God what is wrong with him. He tells his story of brokenness. And instead of the shame he anticipated, the psalm says he was surrounded with "shouts of deliverance," and a celebration breaks out. David receives grace.
I think Psalm 32 contains one of the keys to life. It's the very act of telling our shameful stories that allows us to be free from shame. Only as I speak about what is broken in me can I really experience grace, love, intimacy, and connection--connection to God, and connection to my brothers and sisters in the human family.
Listen to "Then At Last (Psalm 32)" below, and look out for Psalms We Sing Together on September 23.