As a family we had the blessed privilege of seeing Andrew Peterson in concert last night in Lexington, KY. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since my last one! (see posts here and here).
Peterson has just released his new album, Burning Edge of Dawn, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I found it no surprise that it was born out of a new season of wrestling with darkness and depression.
Like his “ragamuffin predecessor,” Rich Mullins, Andrew Peterson shares snippets of his story in between songs. A few of the things he said were so good I had to remember to write them down for further reflection. I will paraphrase a few thoughts here and then comment on them.
First, Peterson commented about the fact that many of his songs revolve around living through a sense of loss, trying to make sense of darkness and depression in light of what he knows about God.
Admitting sadness and brokenness in the Christian life does not mean that Christianity is only about sadness. Sadness is part of being human. What Christianity provides is the opportunity to redeem sadness, to find hope in it with the One who lives with us.
Any form of spirituality that cannot acknowledge and incorporate sadness and darkness into the working of normal everyday life is simply out of touch. As Christians, we have the unique calling upon us to model and live how God indwells and redeems every ounce of human experience, including joy, hope, trauma, sin, sorrow and sadness. Since we live in a culture that has no category for “evil,” often the stories being told are of a “dystopian” nature – a kind of wallowing in darkness with no redemptive meaning (e.g., The Road and The Hunger Games in my opinion).
My favorite moment of the night was when Peterson shared some insight on his authoring the Wingfeather Saga series of novels.
As an author, I had a picture of where I wanted to take my main character, Janner, a picture of where he would end up by the end of the series in book 4. But I realized that in order to do that, I had to ruin his life; I had to take everything away that he loved, everything familiar; I had to take him to the point where he could not see how his story could end well. But then, as an author, I was also able to lift the veil and show him what it was all for, that it was worth it.
I was in tears when I heard this. I long to see my life through the Author’s eyes, one that would help me make sense of why things are so hard, why things go as they do in my story.
This morning as I reflected on Isaiah 53:7-12 in my morning readings, I wondered about the vision that Jesus had in mind that enabled him to live and die as he did.
And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence.
Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it.
Like a sheep to a shearing, like a lamb to be slaughtered,
he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly. (Isa 53:7, The Voice)
Then I thought about Hebrews 12:1-4:
So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us.
Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor.
Consider the life of the One who endured such personal attacks and hostility from sinners so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. Among you, in your striving against sin, none has resisted the pressure to the point of death, as He did. (The Voice)
A significant part of Jesus’ vision (the joy set before him) was enduring suffering, even embracing it, while rejecting the shame of it. Shame causes us to interpret our suffering as “further confirmation of our worthlessness.” What would it look like to interpret it differently? The author of Hebrews goes on to suggest (12:5ff) that we can learn to see it as God’s loving discipline, his shaping us for his holiness. Suffering can uniquely shape us for living the eternal life that Jesus gives, now. It can empty us of all the obstacles to this life.
Obviously we need help from others to interpret things this way – safe people to sit with us and hold us when we’re falling apart. As we do that for each other, be that for each other, our lives intertwine and become a tiny beacon we can hold on to when life hurts.