Whenever I hear Cleareyed by Glen Phillips or Sons & Daughters by the Decemberists, I'm immediately transported to Quinn's nursery just after he was born where I read my way through the Harry Potter books and Neil Peart's Traveling Music while I nursed Quinn and Emmett toured the country playing drums. Those were songs of hope and endurance, but they were also lighthearted and merry.
When I downloaded, Light for the Lost Boy by Andrew Peterson, a few months ago, I was initially disappointed, and I put it down for a while. But when I picked it back up in September and fell in love with it, I didn't really know it would be the soundtrack for the last couple months of my life. Let's start with these lyrics from the first song:
'Cause every death is a question markWhen you look into grief and refuse to cover it up with self-justfication or co-dependencey or martyrdom or food or comparison-- when you face all the hard parts of reality without glossing over them or making up alternate stories that sound better-- when you stand on the edge and stare into a darkness you cannot read -- this is the very spot where I have been frozen these past months despite all the busy holidays and friends and work and family. For a moment, when the shootings happened in Newtown, I felt that most of the world had come to join me in my little spot, yet how quickly people drifted to distractions, to find any petty argument to turn their gaze away from the darkness.
At the end of the book of a beating heart
And the answer is scrawled in the silent dark
On the dome of the sky in a billion stars
But we cannot read these angel tongues
And we cannot stare at the burning sun
And we cannot sing with these broken lungs
So we kick in the womb and we beg to be born
Deliverance, O Lord!
But it was in the darkness, surrounded by a sky more beautiful and terrible and lonely than we can imagine, that God gave Abraham a promise. I had no idea this darkness was the place I had to stand to see God. I don't think I could have signed up for this gig so many years ago if I had known it would lead me here. And yet...
I couldn't really put it into words until I read Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. It is a beautiful little book that I avoided because it was so trendy and her writing style is not my favorite. When a dear friend gave it to me, I started it with mixed feelings of obligation and curiosity, yet I quickly devoured it as words of life to my soul. While the book is an amazing testimony of the transforming power of thankfulness, I was struck by so many of her stories. The moments where she learned to be transformed by gratitude were the moments when she came face to face with the darkness, the ugliness, the hopelessness, and chose to face that emptiness and wait on God. I was overwhelmed with the importance of learning just to stand in the darkness and intentionally open yourself up to God. I had not been practicing euchariteo as she calls it; instead of "thank you," my thoughts were more like, "um... i'm here, now what..." But I was amazed at the ways in which God would meet me in those moments, ways that are probably not even noticed externally, but speak to my soul that God is accomplishing a beautiful work in my soul. And I was so thankful to know I wasn't nuts, or if I was nuts, then someone else was there with me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm still an expert sinner, but by intentionally removing all my coping mechanisms and forcing me to metaphorically stare into the abyss, God is also training me to see him. But standing on the edge of the abyss can really take it out of a girl. I mean, sheesh, have I been tired. Sometimes I feel like the work of faith is more like just standing. You know the last scene of the last X-men movie where Wolverine is standing there regenerating his skin as fast as that Jane girl can burn it away? I kind of feel like I am living that scene every day.
It's like Paul says in Ephesians 6: 13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." I am just standing lately. That's it. Nothing glamorous, but some days when I get to the end of the day and I'm still standing, stripped of all my coping mechanisms that I so desperately want to use to hide the abyss - oh man - those are the nights I want to laugh out loud or dance a jig precisely because I'm still standing.