Simultaneously Saint & Sinner
"When I get honest, I admit that I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said that I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer."
I appreciate Brennan Manning – author of the above phrase – more and more as I get older. Here we have a five-sentence-long quote that perfectly summarizes the collisions we are. Certainly – anyhow – the walking contradiction I seem to be.
I wonder what Manning thought of Martin Luther. If an opinion exists, I don't know about it, but I dare say he'd have appreciated the reformer's phrase: Simul Justus et Peccator.
That is: "Simultaneously Righteous (or: Saint) and Sinner."
The essence of the formula being that we are both/and people – a theological attempt at summarizing the way we are both justified by the finished work of the cross and still subject to sin and death in the now and not yet we live in.
Somehow both covered and exposed.
This evening, I had a conversation with my mom about my upcoming album.
Now, normally, conversations with moms don't make the marketing campaign for an artist's new record. At least, not that you know of.
But my mom is making it. Wisdom and principles from conversations that I've had with my mom throughout the past few years made the album, not just this pitch.
She, like the rest of us, is a both/and person.
When it came to my confusion, she both absorbed my pain and imparted wisdom for seeing past it.
When it came to my health, she both worried and trusted.
When it came to my fear, she both encouraged and understood.
When it came to my unbelief, she both sympathized and held onto the faith I couldn't muster.
So tonight, I spent some time with her in everyone's favorite place to talk: the kitchen.
I told her than I am both excited and afraid of what I'm about to release.
I am both confident and insecure.
I am both ready to begin the conversations and ready to end them.
I am both beyond the excruciating darkness that led to the words you'll soon hear and right smack-dab in the middle of them.
I am both guarded and defenseless.
I am both sure and unsure.
And yet here I am again: as ready – I suppose – as I'll ever be to unveil something new for the first time in a long time, and hoping that perhaps it can be both a cut and a salve for the rest of the both/and people in this world who have been willing to bleed and heal with me throughout the past nine years.
I know you don't know much about this one.
Trust me: the restraint I've had to practice in keeping it quiet – for all of my longing to justify myself before you've even heard the songs – is huge.
I both want to soften the blow and let you sit with the discomfort I both fear and generate.
"And so," my mom said tonight, "tell them that."
Maybe you know what it's like to be a bundle of paradoxes.
Maybe you know what it's like when something right starts to seem wrong.
Maybe you know what it's like when the curtain is pulled back to reveal what's been hidden, and what's been hidden hurts.
Maybe you know what it's like when faith feels more like cataracts than clarity.
This week, I will release the first single from my new album.
On the same day, I will release preorder packages for you to choose from, should you decide to support the first full-length record I've put out in three years. As you well know, if you've participated in any part of this journey with me throughout the years, I don't come by these things lightly.
I'm not going to lie, folks, this one came out of the darkest nights my soul has known, and I count it a miracle to write you with light aglow again, tonight.
If anything I've said thus far resonates, I would like to thank you for being a part of the mystery that we are, together. Thank you for staying. I am better for it. There's a lot to live for. I hope that you, too, will find that I have something left to offer in all of complications that I am, simul justus et peccator.
P.S. – I normally send these letters out once a week, but as I gear up for the record release, I'm planning on sending quite a few. Please stick with me. I want the album to speak for itself, but I want to walk toward it together the best I can. We're one thing, you and me.
P.P.S. – I have been a full-time, independent artist for nine years now. If you want to talk about miracles, that alone is a testament to their existence, and primarily through you. You with lips that speak life. You with money given to a new record, or a Fraction membership, or a Kickstarter campaign, or a preorder, or a concert, or a generous donation. You with beds to sleep on and food to eat. You with prayers lifted over us. Thank you. There's never been a publicist. There's never been a booking agent. There's never been a manager. There's been me and Brandi and friends and family and you. I'm going to ask for your help again. As I put this stuff out, would you share it, as well? As I make things available, would you pay them forward?
P.P.P.S. – If anyone receiving this letter made it this far, and you happen to run a blog, or a music review website, or some sort of thing that you think might benefit from a solid critique of a new Levi The Poet record, I'd love to hear from you. Perhaps we can arrange a way to get the album to you in exchange for your words. Serious inquiries only, please (we'll decide what that means when we hear from you). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.P.P.P.S. – Here we go, guys...
(Photo: Joseph Bulger)