Longing for Eden
Cinema & New Media Arts | On Apr 04, 2013
At the beginning of your recent album you quote J. R. R. Tolkien—”we all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of exile”—affirming both the beauty and brokenness of this world. What do you see as a danger of emphasizing only one of these realities in your music and the church in general?
When I was young my intuition told me the world is a screwy place. And so whenever I encountered art that didn’t seem to acknowledge the brokenness of the world, I experienced it as dishonesty. It was short-selling the truth. So I tended not to give it the benefit of the doubt. If it didn’t have some darkness in it, then I would just assume it was shallow.
There was also a time in high school when I was into too much darkness. And there is an old saying, though I can’t remember the source, that “if you look too long into the abyss, the abyss might look back.” There is a danger in dwelling too much on the darkness as well, because it’s not the entire truth either.
I am not sure that I am articulating the danger, except to say that either one is dishonest.
In terms of the church, there is a pastor in Missouri who introduced me to a number of people in his congregation who were victims of abuse, recovering drug addicts, and former gang members. It was a really diverse congregation filled with people with broken pasts, and I wept because they were so full of life and full of Christ.
I asked the pastor how he ended up having these remarkable people in his congregation. And he said, “I was abused as a boy and always kept it a secret. And one day I felt the Holy Spirit convict me that I needed to share with others about my abuse, and I began telling my story from the pulpit.” Soon his church became known as the church you go to when you have a broken past. What a beautiful example of what we are talking about.
And that’s what I mean by acknowledging the brokenness—the kind of darkness this pastor acknowledges is within the context of the triumph of Christ. So as a Christian, I don’t have to be afraid. If I am telling my story in the context of hope and the gospel, there is no darkness we can walk into that the light will not conquer. So that allows me as a songwriter and storyteller to take a deep breath and then plunge in.