Saturday evening. Sitting on the bus. Pouring rain. Wet jeans. Leaking boots. Cold. It’s already got properly dark after one of those days when it never even got properly light. Feeling sorry for myself. Hallelujah for the Lord God Almighty reigns, sings Tim Hughes joyfully. Skip. How can I keep from singing your praise? enthuses Chris Tomlin. Skip. Irritatingly conventional, I simply play U2 on my i-pod, loud enough to drown out my thoughts. Stuck in a moment. Just trying to find a decent melody, a song that I can sing in my own company. Trying to numb the clogging-up hurts and questions and apathy. Oh Lord, look at you now, you’ve got yourself stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it. Mais oui.
On Sunday morning I write my journal, hoping that a spell of catharsis will lift my mood. However, bullet-pointing the stresses only seems to make them less avoidable, and pushes me further down into the dumps that I’ve got myself tangled up in. Cry it all through over the phone with the friend who gets me as I wend my way reluctantly to that Sunday gathering place. I don’t even really want to go. I see in myself the sullen obedience I’d seen in my goddaughter, Hannah, the weekend before when I was on supervision duty. Each time she reached the point in the street to which I’d allowed her to rollerskate, a point which the girls considered to be unfairly limiting, she sighed, turned dramatically round and skated back to base, glaring at me to make her displeasure evident. She obeyed begrudgingly, unlike little sister Abbie who scooted past that point in a show of defiance, ignoring my calls to stop. Unlike Abbie, I don’t even know how to walk away. To who would I go? Instead, I sulk like Hannah.
I look around at the raised hands, the expressions of hope, and part of me wants to join in. But a little voice tells me that it lacks integrity to sing of freedom, release from darkness, and victory when I feel enslaved, unreleased, unvictorious. Does it really work, is it really true? The same voice whispers to me. Did God really say? Truths feel like trite platitudes and I watch it all playing out in front of me. I shouldn’t have come. I direct my irritation at Darlene and the fact that everyone’s bought into the Aussie pronunciation of ‘holy’. Sounds like wholly. Or holey, as in full of holes. That’s how I feel. Full of holes. Jesus and the song you wrote, the words are sticking in my throat. I remain silent.
Finally it stops, and we sit down. Phew. 2 Chronicles 20, he says. Great, I think (sarcastically), just what I need. Some old war story with funnily-named protagonists. He starts to speak. About the times we’re in battle, feeling powerless to fight. In that place of powerless, he proposes that singing and praise become a weapon which actually changes reality. Like in Acts 16. You’re not singing any more, taunt the supporters of the winning team at the losing side. Sing when you’re winning, they say. But here he’s saying to sing when you’re losing. Declare a different reality. Realign your perspective. Be repositioned in a place where it’s not about our own efforts or power to do stuff.
So, at the end, when they invite anyone who feels like they’re in a battle to come forward, my reluctant feet decide to take me there. All them others what are in The House gather round. You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight, these tears are going nowhere baby. Suddenly I feel less obliged to carry my own weight or to listen to that deceptive voice that says I’m beaten or that everything hangs on me. Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. They sing. I sing. We all sing. The weight lifts. PTL. LOL. Etc.
Monday morning and all the same issues remain – the frustrations, the hurts, the reality – and I can still feel the darkness lapping like floodwaters against the sandbag defences that I put up around me. But onwards and upwards. The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, may I be singing when the evening comes.