After finishing my college degree, three women friends and I decided to "go west." We stuffed into a struggling station wagon with a tent, one duffel bag each, and about 30 cassette tapes. When asked the purpose of this sojourn, I usually responded with a smirk, "Oh, you know, all the easy stuff: Going west to simplify, to find the meaning of life, who I really am, and what God might have in store for me." Even then, I didn't assume that any road trip would supply me with the wisdom of the ages. But now, two years later, as I still spin with questions of identity, direction, vocation, and purpose, I am baffled by the longevity of this journey.
In the context of this bewilderment, I listen to Carrie Newcomer's 1998 release, My True Name, a country-folk-bluesy treatise on searching for identity, abandoning old definitions and names, throwing oneself into the uncertainty of God's Spirit, and accepting the complexity of the now. Newcomer's advice to my searching soul: "You can only offer up your heart and ask that you be led." Yes, Newcomer's musical exploration comes as both the comforting blessing of a struggle shared as well as a daunting omen promising the continuation of a circuitous and arduous path toward inner peace.
Newcomer does not beat around the bush. Answers are not discovered easily, and certainty cannot be assumed. In "When One Door Closes," a gospel-like, tambourine-accompanied song that urges the listener to sing along, Newcomer insists, "It's not gettin' easier, so I'm not going to pretend/That I know this story from its beginning to its end." She continues, "When you finally think you've got it down, it isn't so."