Monday, March 8, 2010

Of Men and Angels

[This is a piece that I wrote on one of many dark nights in the past several weeks. I wasn't sure at first if I would share it, but eventually decided that if there's a chance that it could connect with even one person, then it would be worth it.]

Sometimes I wonder if those of us who focus so much on the unseen-- on the angels and the demons of the world, on the breathtaking heights of hope and the bitter price of pain-- are somehow defective. It's as though the cramped world we live in wants to tie us down on the dark street corners and in the straight-cornered offices with our sheets of facts and our inventories and our annual reports. There is a value in that, but often it's no more than a safety in lying low. It's easier to miss the stones and arrows of life that way-- easier to duck below the hurt and the shame and the ignorance and the bitterness that are so thick in the air.

At moments when we stand, when we reach out our hands to something beyond merely existing, there is a good chance that we'll take a few hits. We may take some shots to the chest that seem to make it impossible to breathe. We lose someone. Life gets complicated. There's not enough money. We compromise, knowing it's wrong. We find ourselves in dark places we never thought we'd be. If we get out of it alive at all, we might choose to hide from it again. No more reaching.

But if we hide then we are not just hiding from the darkness, but also the light. If we spend life hiding in our closets, close with our skeletons and the ghosts of past doubts, then we will be safe from continued hurts. But we will never know how far we would have gone, had we been brave enough to keep going. To love when it hurt. To sacrifice when it meant losing everything. To sing while bleeding. To walk in a dark night with eyes fixed on the stars.

The things that are worth the most in the end are the things that are hardest to reach. Of course there are times when we break ourselves over nothing, for the sake of pride, for the sake of misguided emotion, for the sake of empty ambition-- these things happen a lot, when we listen to ourselves instead of God. But when we reach for things of Heaven-- things of hope, of faith, of love-- we will run into opposition. We will have to fight many harsh battles, and some of those battles will be lost. But ultimately, if we never turn to reach at all, then life will be like a flat-lined heart that never really began to beat at all.

Perhaps this is why the people who care the most about serving God, about love, about hope, are the ones who feel hurt the most. They're reaching for the hard things.

I asked myself once what true love really is. The answer was Jesus-- the definition of love, the one who had everything and became nothing, humbled and broken to make life from the death in our hearts. His love was sacrifice, the sacrifice of all He was. If we are not sacrificing for others, it is not love. It is liking what they have to offer us maybe, or some level of affection, but it is not love. To start loving someone with the expectation of never being the one that's hurt, never being the one that's left behind, never being the one that's lonely and uncertain and afraid-- that would be like diving into the middle of the ocean and expecting to have your feet on the ground the whole time. It doesn't work that way. It's not easy, and it wasn't made to be easy. Love, hope, faith-- they were made to be beautiful and above all worth it.

Jon Foreman once said that he'd come to realize that most of his songs are an attempt to come to terms with pain. I would have to echo him, because in the end, the words I write and the songs I sing and even the words sharpied on my skin are the same thing. But ultimately I have to believe that to reach, to hope even when the light fades to black, to trust even when the earth crumbles, to love even with scars from a thousand knives in your back-- that is the only answer that can bring peace. Not happiness-- happiness is too obscure a concept and much too far away for the dark hours of the night when we think about these kinds of things. But peace, in knowing that our God has not abandoned us, that His love for us and His eternal faithfulness will always be the surging tide to lift us through the choking smoke of this earth to the gentle sunlight of His rest.

So I will be a dreamer. I will believe in big things, in love and in pain and in scratching below the quiet surface to the screaming souls below. We live in a world of men and angels, of the broken and the eternal, the darkness and the light. And as I drift between the two, I will trust God's love to draw me close again, to be my sense of wholeness and peace, to surge through me into the darkness surrounding.

"Oh, the tongues of men and angels I speak, but lack love. Oh love, will I stab you in the back? Working every day, I'm afraid I forgot to show what's most important: love." - The Rocket Summer

- Elraen -