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august | 2011

The Long Surrender

“Redeem some small thing / far beyond me.” -Over the Rhine Have you ever stumbled into a corner of life—maybe a certain conversation, book, or collection of music that seemed to make itself stand out from everything else in the background just to speak to you in a thousand different ways? I sometimes like to think God teaches by way of themes—as in, I might cross paths with one particular topic in a sermon, and then hear about that same topic in Bible Study, and then on the radio, and again in an article, and in talking with a friend. By this time, I am usually well-aware of the fact that this theme may just happen to be

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By Leigh K. Thomas something God wants me to learn. Most recently, I felt ministered to by Over the Rhine’s newest album, The Long Surrender. It’s one of those albums you could put on repeat and easily never tire of hearing its thread of songs. These mellow, folk-tinged, soft-rock soulful musicians know how to conjure up pure poetry in the midst of their wholly original melodies and beautifully melancholy harmonies. I have always appreciated Over the Rhine’s ability to speak truth into their lyrics with a

rawness only understood by experience. When I hear their music, I can crawl deep into its meaning and stay there awhile; I can feel both the weight of sorrow and its graceful acceptance. The Long Surrender was unmistakably the honest soundtrack to my current life—I was continually amazed and yet assured as each song further unearthed a truth tucked in me somewhere that needed addressing: a jaded perspective, a disheartened desire, a fallout. I held to these lyrics as though my


The Long Surrender august | 2011

own, and I carried them with me as whispers to my constant prayers: “I still prayed/ That this night would forgive us/ And redeem some small thing/ Far beyond me” and “Baby our love song must survive” and “There are still so many things/ I wonder if I should say.” And all of these songs were captured in essence by the album’s title—this idea that getting to surrender is often a road much longer than we’d like to take. There can be great healing in urging ourselves to draw nearer to these sacred spaces, to listen with our ears pressed against the wall. From the band’s perspective, this album became a collective representation of “learning to leave room for grace to billow our sails occasionally.” I like that image—a gust of wind coming to refresh us on our journey and breathe life back into us right where we need it. No wonder this album was called “something rare and wondrous—an intimate epic” (Bud Scoppa). Through its lyrical power, I felt comfort and clarity in a corner of life created before me, and I was reminded not to take these slices of life for granted. There can be great healing in urging Recommended Read:

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

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ourselves to draw nearer to these sacred spaces, to listen with our ears pressed against the wall. I hope that you can find ways even this week to explore a theme your heart may be aching to hear. Don’t dismiss glimpses into the patterns and labyrinths of the everyday that may be leading you to quiet revelations. As one Over the Rhine member puts it, “I am not in the business of dispelling mysteries, only abiding with them when invited.”


The Long Surrender