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#from-the-journal

Note: I wrote the following in December of last year in my journal. Many words were written in that journal that will not be published. Some were too personal, some too dark. But the following I believe should see the light of day. I published a post a week ago around this song and hinted at some of this writing, but rereading this told me I should publish this too.


It’s been a rough few years around my house. This year was one of the roughest. The tears cried, the sleepless nights, the anxiety, and the darkness snatching at our feet, screaming for despair. I’ve written more privately this year than I have in recent years. I want to share a few scribbles from those writings.

But my heart is broken, Lord. My nightmares keep me up at night. My daymares keep me from focusing all day.

Where seldom the darkness takes form while I walk, when I rest the lurking, oozing, despair drapes itself over my shoulders. The sleeping dragons awake and intrude on my personal space, their heavy breathing reminding me who is lord over this present age. Albeit temporary.

I do not camp in this valley alone. Even when the fire goes out and the shadows casted become all-encompassing, You are here and know what comes next.

And I lived in the Psalms. In David, our bard king, who had it very easy in life… I kid, his life was rougher than rough.

My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire (Psalm 57:4, NASB)

Yet, this man after God’s heart sang.

“Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!” Psalm 57:8 ESV

And I wrote:

God has him. And he knows it. He feels it in his bones. So instead of whimpering cries to the rocks, he grabs his lyre and strikes a chord.

One day I will understand. Or take rest before the Throne.

I know in my bones who has me. I read earlier this year that the Irish phrase things as “sadness is upon me,” instead of saying “I am sad.” See, in the English, we identify the emotion with a state of being. The Irish, from what I understand, identify emotion as a fleeting thing that rests for a time and then leaves. It isn’t who you are, but what you feel. Above you’ll see that affect my words: “despair drapes itself over my shoulders”.

And that brings us to the song that has chased me through the years and where my Christmas playlist starts this year.

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

It’s hard coming to Christmas, a season of joy and hope, when the shadows abound. When the lurking darkness breathes fire, when hate is strong and our songs are mocked.

For the wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.

Psalm 109:2-5

Despair is the complete loss of hope. We hear the songs, the words repeat— wild and sweet— but darkness… And that’s the thing about hope. Hope is not for the now but the later.

The bells ring out: God is not dead and He does not sleep.

This lyric, in other words, echoed in my darkest nights this year. I knew not what lay in shadow waiting— and sometimes I knew exactly what lay waiting— but I also knew that while the wily Dragon might currently reside over our world, over him is a mightier King that is in control of every step we take and that cunning Dragon is under His control.

Peace on Earth, good will to men. That is your hope, Christian. Rest in it here, before it is reality. Know that it is coming. Know that He has got you.

On Dragons and Darkness

Note: I wrote the following in June of last year in my journal. Many words were written in that journal that will not be published. Some were too personal, some too dark. But the following I believe should see the light of day.


Overwhelmed. It is a word that has consumed my life as of late. And I have been struggling to grasp it all. The darkness of the world caught up to me.

For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 (RSV)

Our world. Seems like a whirlwind over the past couple decades. I started to see the slope when I entered college. And the world has slid. And slid. And slid. And those of us that go the opposite direction of the cliff are called crazy. But I am quick to point out to those baffled by the illogic of it all that we are arguing with the Dead. How can we expect them to reason?

Our battle? It is with the rulers of the darkness.

And that darkness. Until Christ returns that darkness is here to stay. And while light pushes back darkness, while the Church spreads the Light, at times it can feel that we are outnumbered. That we are outmatched.

But so was Gideon. And that was the point.

For we are not alone in the darkness. We are not to rely on ourselves in the darkness. We are with Christ and He with us.

In this present darkness, I have been thinking about monsters. Dragons, titans, fearsome beasts out to do nothing but destroy. It is hard to not look out into the night and wonder what is looking back. Knowing that our war is against the rulers of the darkness, I look out and know they look back. I shudder and hold to my torch.

Neil Gaiman wrote what he thought was a quote from GK Chesterton in saying:

Fairy tales are more than true;
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

This was a bit of an oversummarization of GK1, but it gets to his point. As children we know that our world is scary. We do not have to be taught this. We know, just beyond the edge of the veil of darkness, monsters creep, waiting to devour us. We know the importance of light and staying by it, maybe if for no other reason but to be able to see what comes. Fairy tales teach us that we have a Savior fearless and ready to grab his sword, ready to ride into the darkness and return with the head of a dragon.

Yes, there are dragons just beyond sight, lurking, ready to ambush you. Flaming tongues ready to burn you alive. But behind you stands a Slayer of Dragons. His Sword sharp, His wit sharper. While our mortal frames are frail, we are given strength to battle monsters of an unseen realm.

So here I am. Overwhelmed by the darkness. The coals of my fire casting low flickers of light against the trees. Though my encampment is surrounded by the enemy, though the dragons lurk, I am safe in Christ. He sits by, sword at the ready. And in Him, I can persevere.

Footnotes

  1. G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles
    “The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it—because it is a fact. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”