If you want to listen, Jason Gray's "Without Running Away" is easily found on ye olde YouTube.
If you want to just browse the lyrics, see here.
I'll open with saying that I'm not looking for a length of rope--though those days are carefully bookmarked in my past, so I don't make the disclaimer too loudly. But just don't take this as a cry for help or anything. We're okay. Promise.
My attention tonight was snagged by that simple line: "It's not like I'm trying to be optimistic / If the truth be told, I'd rather dismiss it." Some who share life with me will smirk at that based on some recent conversations, but it's very much where I am these days. Traditionally, I've been a reasonably positive person, but for the last several months it's been a struggle-filled search for that feeling and yes, if the truth be told, dismissing "it"--whatever the it of the moment is--is pretty tempting. I'm hesitant to talk about seasons of life (insofar as emotional states are concerned), because I tend to use that as a justification for various not-great mindframes and behaviors. But this is just where I am these days. Maybe it'll last for another eight or nine months; maybe it will close out before the week does. But I don't think I limit myself or my God when I say life has been less than shiny, and it's been wearing me out.
My natural leaning, then--and Jason's, too, apparently--is to close down. Not dramatically, not in a huff, not with slamming doors and paintings falling to the floor in a froth of glass. Slowly. Gently. Like falling asleep in the sunshine, a gradual numbing and closing and softening into gray. Because hurting and pressing on with the effort of living, of loving, is hard. I don't say this to sound a pity party for myself at all--we've all been here, at the bottom of our own particular barrel, and we've all made it out again at some point. I don't suppose these are the darkest days I've seen--I know they aren't, not when I really sit back and grasp perspective--but immediacy is quite a magnifier.
"Jesus is speaking but it's so hard to hear / When disciples with swords are cutting off ears." I love that line to the moon and back, have since the first time I heard it. I love it because I hear it at first about other people, so quick am I to point out splinters, but before I've completed the thought I'm usually noticing the plank that's all mine.* I also love it because of the mindset behind Peter's swordplay. Yes, he was defensive and angry and violent, but all of that was stemming from love, from an overwhelming knowledge of injustice and unfairness. He wasn't right, but he wasn't unjustified. I am so quick to list out the injustices against me--and Jesus, awesome as He is, counts them out in His hand with me. But that can't be the end of the story. We have to keep going, because I could spend the rest of my life listing off injustices or I can do something about them--even if it's just loving people in spite of them.
The still small Voice
that calls like the rising sun, "Come,
bring your heart to everyday
and run the risk of fearlessly loving
without running away."
That's almost my favorite part, but the refrain that catches in my head most often, most consistently, no matter the circumstance, is, right now, more a prayer than a reality. And I think that's why I love this song, too: that it's not just "poor, pitiful me." It's not a litany of what's wrong. It's a progression. It's the problem and the solution. Because the more that I seek out and listen to and follow that still small voice, the voice that makes mountains and moves them, the more this will be true. And I can believe that, even if I don't feel it.
My heart is not lifted up.
My eyes are not lifted up.
But calm and quiet is my soul--
like a child with its mother is my soul.
The injustices will stick around. I was never promised otherwise. It seems, lately, that every time I open my Bible there is another reminder that, to quote the oh-so-sacred text of Battlestar Galactica, "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again."
Jesus got exhausted, too. At times along this road over the last several months, I've felt that very clearly: that He is exhausted, is hurt, is worn out with me. (Yes, He's God and can't actually be, but I think you track with what I mean.) But when Jesus got worn out, His response never varied: He got out, He retreated into His Father, and from there He could bear every exhaustion, every hurt--even death.
This process has worn me down, and I'm not feeling too pretty these days. When Paul talked about completing the race, I hope he meant on hands and knees, covered in mud and blood and worse, because I'm pretty sure that's how it's going to go. But while I may not be able to raise my hands or even my eyes, calm and quiet will be my soul.
Like a child with its mother will be my soul.
*Sorry for my casual references here--two awesome moments when Jesus shows ludicrous, otherworldly poetry and justice:
- splinters and planks: in pointing out the hypocrisy of his own followers, Jesus uses the metaphor of one pointing out a splinter in his neighbor's eye while not noticing the plank in his own. We are so quick to detail what is wrong with everyone else, even--especially--those we are closest to. (Matthew 7)
- Jason's line references the arrest of Jesus, immediately before his death, when a very well-meaning but ultimately misguided Peter (my homeboy forever) defends Jesus by lashing out with a sword, likely not his. His love for Jesus emboldens him, but he puts that boldness into the wrong response. How do we know it's wrong? Because Jesus puts the man's ear back on. (John 18)