Resurrection. A thing for which I long, but which I struggle to hope for. When I first discovered Andrew Peterson, it was mostly through the album The Burning Edge of Dawn. I knew in those songs I had found a kindred spirit, a fellow traveler on the way of darkness and suffering in life. I am by temperament drawn to the reality of struggle in this world. As a psychotherapist it is my vocation to walk with people through the darkness of their lives. It would be both unhelpful and unethical to rush people through the suffering and simply try to get them to see the positive, the silver lining. But my work is always based upon the possibility, essentially, of resurrection. If there was no hope for change, for healing, for growth, then my work is pointless.
When I was invited to write a meditation on an Andrew Peterson album I was excited. But when I started listening to Resurrection Letters vol. 1, I deflated a bit: “Oh, Jesus’ Resurrection… that’s very… hopeful… and trusting. I don’t do that so easily.”
I am also not very trusting of a kind of Christianity that only sees the light, what Barbara Brown Taylor calls “full solar Christianity.” A full understanding of Christianity involves holding the sun and the moon, the day and the night. But I trust Andrew Peterson, because of the time he has spent in his own dark nights, so I entered into his Resurrection Letters knowing that the hope there is based in reality, not denial.
Not surprisingly, one of the songs I am most drawn to is "Rise Up." It begins:
Every stone that makes you stumble and cuts you when you fall
Every serpent here that strikes your heel to curse you when you crawl
The king of love one day will crush them all
I picture the people I work with, many of whom have spent much of their lives stumbling and crawling, feeling cut and cursed.
Every sad seduction, and every clever lie, every word that woos and wounds the pilgrim children of the sky, the king of love will break them by and by.
I carry in my heart my people who have been seduced and lied to by shame, guilt, fear, and so many other damaging voices that have spoken from within and from without.
And you will rise up in the end, you will rise up in the end I know the night is cruel, but the day is coming soon, when you will rise up in the end
I am drawn to the song by the naming of the suffering it includes, but sometimes the idea that in the end all will be made right feels like a cruel hope. Okay, we will rise in the end, the King of Love will heal us in the end, but what about now?
With the Psalmist I cry, "How long O Lord?" Sometimes the only way to endure is through lament, because the hope of what will happen in the end is not enough. I need hope right now too. I hear this in Peterson’s song writing too. In the song "Is He Worthy", it opens this way:
Do you feel the world is broken? We do.
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do.
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do.
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do.
Is all creation groaning? It is. New creation coming? It is.
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is. Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is.
If full solar Christianity is not the whole truth, neither is what I am drawn to at times, what I could call “dark-side Christianity.” I need to be reminded of ways that in this time of already/not yet (the concept I learned from my Reformational teachers at Redeemer University College, that the kingdom of God is already here and not yet fully present), the Resurrection does show up.
Every time a person becomes freer of the tyranny of shame, that is resurrection. Every time a person is able to take in a little bit more that they are God’s beloved, that is resurrection. Every time a community is able to embrace an outsider or care for the vulnerable, that is resurrection.
Every person who comes to me for therapy ends up learning the language of both/and. We humans seem, by default, to think in dualistic terms. Something is either good or bad, I am either happy or sad. Learning non-dualistic ways of thinking makes this life a lot more tolerable and makes our faith much more deep and true. This world is full of both joy and delight and suffering and evil. I can be both thankful for the good in my life and lament the pain or devastation in my life or the lives of others. We feel the brokenness of the world, the groaning of creation, and we remind ourselves that God is with us.
Does the Father truly love us? He does.
Spirit move among us? He does.
And does Jesus our Messiah hold forever those he loves. He does.
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does.
It is good that we remind ourselves of such things. If there’s one discipline that stands out to me as being essential to the life of faith, it is remembering. Not remembering selectively, not remembering just the bad stuff, but remembering the stuff we hold together in community.
Peterson’s song "Remember and Proclaim" is about how participating in the Eucharist is one of the key acts of remembering the promises contained in Christ’s death and Resurrection.
As we gather round this table we remember and proclaim
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again…
Every footstep tells the story as the people join the feast
We remember his blood and body broken for you and me
One step and we remember, the other we proclaim
His death until he comes, he’s coming back again
The Eucharist is one of the ways we "practice resurrection", to borrow Wendell Berry’s marvelous phrase. But I also love that Peterson goes on to write that when we join with friends and neighbours around a shared meal, that’s another kind of remembering, another way we practice resurrection:
Now we join with friends and neighbours to celebrate again
Around a different kind of table we remember just the same
This feast is a battle we wage against the night
Every time we break the bread we drink the wine
I can hear the song in my heart and in my head and I sing along
We remember we proclaim his death until he comes again
We remember we proclaim Christ is died Christ is risen Christ will come again
I choose to remember, the good and the bad, and to hope for resurrection now, and the resurrection that is to come.