Beautiful City

As I’ve been doing some writing today I’ve been listening to music on my computer. I’d loaded some new songs and  I smiled as the opening notes of “Beautiful City” from “Godspell” began.  It’s always been one of my favorite songs from that musical.

The song was familiar but now the words were different. As I listened, I realized that it had been re-written in the shadows of a terrible time in one of this country’s beautiful cities:

Beautiful City

( sung by Jesus )

Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but truly mending
Brick by brick, heart by heart
Now, maybe now
We start learning how

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man

When your trust is all but shattered
When your faith is all but killed
You can give up, bitter and battered
Or you can slowly start to build

A beautiful city
Yes, we can; Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But finally a city of man.

(Beautiful City” by Stephen Schwartz, from “Godspell,” copyright 2011)

I’ve always loved the song. Now I love it even more.

I realized that what lyricist Schwartz has done in his musical is what we have to do in life. We have to keep re-writing the songs.

When we come from a place of fear, we have to hold on tightly. Any question, any change is seen as threat… a crack in the wall, a start down a slippery slope. As we grow and love and live we have a choice of stubbornly singing louder and louder, fingers in our ears so that we filter out anything that makes us question, doubt or search. We can shut it down… or we can open our hearts, trusting that God who birthed us will not frown upon us as we grow.

I’ve recently been reading Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open, in which she tells story after story of people who experienced great suffering, Instead of trying to avoid the suffering they sat with it. They listened to it. They even opened their hearts to it. And their songs grew richer and deeper and wiser.

We need such souls. We need such lives.

We need such music.

 

Peggy Haymes

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About the Author
Peggy Haymes is a Licensed Professional Counselor, minister and writer in Winston-Salem, NC. She is the author of several books, including, "Didn't See It Coming: How I faced bouncing off a Buick and other assorted stuff."

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