Often, my favorite songs of the year come out of left field, which ought not to be too surprising given the fact that I am a somewhat eccentric person. Last year, for example, my favorite two songs of the year were “Color” by Finish Ticket , an obscure but talented band that I liked enough to see in concert, and “Dark Necessities” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Among my obscure favorite songs of the year are the aching and longing “Show Me What I’m Looking For” by Carolina Liar, the melancholy “Crossfire” from Brandon Flowers’ first solo album, and “Living Darfur” from South African singer Mattaflix, a song about as Nathanish as it is possible to be with its strings and piano backing a straightforward song about a rising from a disastrous past made for the troubled refugees of Darfur in Sudan. In 2004, my favorite song was “White Houses,” by Vanessa Carlton, a song that was banned on MTV for its dislike of the song’s painfully realistic singing about the repercussions of youthful folly in one’s relationships. Among the lines of the sadder and wiser Carlton, in light of her experience as a ballet student, was “These silly little wounds will never mend. / I feel so far from where I’ve been.” Although the song was not particularly popular, only peaking at #86 on the Billboard Hot 100, it is an excellent song and one a certain type of person can relate to.
Earlier today I was looking at a link for a book review I had written for a book I largely liked  and I looked the reviews from other readers for the same book. One of the readers had a rather negative view of the book because she believed that relationships with friends and family couldn’t be improved if there were problems. Now, to be sure, I have seen plenty of situations that were not improved, but that does not mean that they could not have been improved. Improvement in our relationships with other people depends on the commitment of at least one of the parties to change and the commitment of the other parties to forgive, to accept apologies, and to desire reconciliation. Not everyone is willing to give that sort of second, or third, or fourth chance to others. There are some people who give no second chances to others, and some who have no commitment to change and improvement. To be sure, reconciliation is not easy, and certainly not something that can be expected or taken for granted, because sometimes wounds just don’t mend.
Both the Vanessa Carlton song “White Houses” and the adverse review of a book that discounts the possibility of reconciliation speak to a reality that all too many of us have to deal with in our lives. Many of us live with the reality and the repercussions of silly little wounds. These wounds are the result of the toxic mixture of our own folly and weakness and the folly and wickedness of those around us. The wounds may seem silly because we do not think they should be as deep and as destructive as they are, but they are our wounds nonetheless and we would do well to acknowledge them even where we feel embarrassed to admit just how much certain things have cut us deeply. The woman who gave the adverse review might have thought about situations such as abuse or infidelity as being particularly difficult to forgive. Yet if we wish to be the sort of people God wants us to be, we have to be in the habit of extending mercy to the unworthy. God will never trust us to sit in judgment over the fate of human beings or formerly rebellious spirits (see 1 Corinthians 6:1-10) if we have not acquired His own pattern of being a gracious and merciful sort of being. Likewise, in listening to Vanessa Carlton’s song and her discussions of losing her virginity foolishly, her drinking parties and casual flirtations, few people who are aware of the pain that results from being foolish in our relationships and in our approach to intimacy would consider the lasting pain to be silly or little. Many of suffer for many years as a result of our problems in that area of life.
Looking at these songs and reviews, I am often reminded of the reason why I am a student of history. When we look at what is contemporary and current in our culture, it can be hard for us to distinguish between that which is passing and faddish and will quickly be forgotten and that which will endure. That which will endure is that which leaves a mark, and sometimes that is for the better and sometimes that is for the worse. A woman with a scar from a C-section has a wound that will never entirely mend, but that scar is a reminder of the birth of a child, of the pain and damage that is sometimes necessary for new life to blossom and grow. I happen to have a scar on the side of my head that is covered by my receding hair line that was due to an unfortunate encounter with a ceiling fan at a church summer camp during my teenage years. That is a silly little wound that in some ways has never mended, but it left a mark and was certainly a memorable incident. Those of us who are students of history understand that some parts of life leave a mark, and some lives leave a mark on the world around us. It is what we do with those memories that helps decide whether that mark is for the better or for the worse. We cannot help but be wounded in the course of life as flawed people in a fallen and rebellious world; all we can choose is what we do with the wounds we have, what kind of stories we tell about them, and what kind of people we become once we are wounded.
 See, for example: