I See A Darkness

“And then I see a darkness
And then I see a darkness
And then I see a darkness
And then I see a darkness
And did you know how much I love you
is a hope that somehow you, you
can save me from this darkness.”

From “I See A Darkness” by Bonnie “Prince” Billy

Continuing the thread from my previous post, I have been thinking of the symbolism of marriage vows as a reflection of our journey of faith.  I recognise that writing on this topic may risk alienating those who aren’t married but long to be, those who have experienced bad or broken marriages or those who view marriage as outdated.  Hopefully, this isn’t just some trite musing from a smug, happily-married, thirty-something, so please stick with me…

A few short months after making our own marriage vows, life came off the rails.  We’d been going out for five years before we tied the knot and there was no pre-cursor or warning of the illness that would befall upon my wife.  She has written about it briefly and honestly on her own blog here.

That chapter was probably the lowest point in my life and I wasn’t the one suffering ill health.  I was young, trying to provide for my wife and I, trying to get good at my job, commuting daily to and from Glasgow, working for a really difficult boss (who incidentally is the only Christian I have ever worked under).  The post-viral fatigue got worse and my wife had to quit her job and just rest.  There was a period of about 18 months when life just felt precariously balanced and constantly teetering – as if it could crash around us at any second. 

Life involved leaving the flat at 6.30 or so in the morning with my wife asleep and not knowing what I was returning to – whether or not she’d made it out of bed, whether she’s blacked out and fallen down the stairs again.  From a meagre combined income, we ended up on an even more meagre single salary and that brought its own strains.  I couldn’t understand why this was happening and I was angry at God and felt mislead, confused, impatient, weary and exhausted.

I discovered that I could relate to the lyrics from some of my favourite songs more than I had ever wanted to. 

“I’m checking your pulse ’cause you’re so quiet
I’m kissing you but you don’t feel it
Why do you do this to me?
Showing me all that I’m good for
Is to watch you sleep as lifeless as an angel”

From “Why Won’t You Stay?” by American Music Club


“So much that I can say to you
with affection that I burn inside.
You’re aching from the distance
avoiding strain that’s running still alive.
If only i could heal you in the sprinkling of the ocean side
but then you’d know how much I really love you”

From “Drop” by Red House Painters

It’s funny how God brings people into your life at different times.  I’d not played my drums regularly since leaving home and I missed that lots.  I was asked to stand in on drums at a combined church youth event called Powerpoint in Edinburgh one Friday night.  That led to a regular monthly slot and it was great just to be able to play my heart out on my drums, to get some release and to not hold back and to be somehow praising God in amongst it all.  Prior to that playing drums in any worship context had always felt so second rate to playing in the band I used to play with. 

The church we still go to was very different in those days.  My wife and I really struggled with the style of music at our own church, although we felt we were meant to be there.  Powerpoint, whilst being an event aimed at churched teenagers, was a breath of fresh air for me. 

The guy who lead the Powerpont praise band, Andy, can only have been about 18 or 19 back then, but he had a wise head on young shoulders.  He would regularly provide me with mix tapes of worship songs so that I could learn the drum parts.  Those tapes became a lifeline on those dreary journeys back and forth on the M8.  As I practiced the drum fills on my steering wheel, my mind was taken off my own situation and my eyes and heart refocused and lifted upwards.

During that time I discovered probably my favourite “praise and worship” (for want of a better moniker) album – Kevin Prosch’s “Reckless Mercy”.  It sounds so unlike most of the stuff filling the racks of CDs in typical Christian bookstores.  It is just the sound of someone broken and dependent on God.  When I hear the sobs in the line , “Hear our cry for help, O Lord.  Do not hide your face from us.  We are in need” – it reminds me so much of those days enveloped in darkness.  When I hear the joy of the piano bashing on “All I Need” from that album it feeds my soul even still.

Thankfully we came out the other side of that experience.  I still don’t cope at all well when the slightest signs of post viral syndrome return.  It’s something that I think will always haunt me, but I don’t have those recurring dreams anymore when I was just at the end of my tether and tired of life.

I guess it is human nature to seek an answer as to why certain things happen in our lives.  I can’t say that I have ever found an answer as to why my wife and I still have this thorn in our side that presses back in from time to time.  Even as I write this post, I suppose I realise that had I not hit those low points I may not have found a dependency on God in that broken and hurting place when all the props are gone.  I doubt whether I would have discovered such a connection to some of the music I love nor found such a desire to help lead people into an appreciation of the character of God through music, whether that be through leading music times at our church or through exploring things on this blog. 

Let’s not kid ourselves that life is easy as soon as we commit ourselves to God.  That has not always been my experience and I doubt whether it has really been yours.  I don’t believe that is what Jesus taught.  After all, the example he provides led to a cross.  We are commanded to pick up our own cross and I wonder how often we ask what that means for us personally?  How often do we moan and gripe about the circumstances we find ourselves in?  Maybe we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with God in the good times every bit as much as in the tough times.  Maybe we need to tell ourselves again and again that He is faithful even when we can’t make sense of where we find ourselves.  In that light, doesn’t the story of the Exodus and the wandering in the desert for those seemingly barren years seem all the more poignant and allegorical?


9 Responses to “I See A Darkness”

  1. 1 duncanmcf September 2, 2008 at 7:20 am

    Thanks for the honesty in this post. There are no easy answers to these times, or standard formulas, it’s simply a time to be, and to cling on to your relationships – with God, with others. Sorry for the times we’ve (I’ve) not been around to support you guys when things are tougher. And thanks for educating me about how music can express the voice of the soul.

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin September 2, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Thanks Duncan, you guys have been a huge part of our lives these past couple of years. Your insight in small group, your blog and the books and articles you refer to have been an immeasurable inspiration to me.

    As regards this latest post, I guess I just always want to write honestly and with transparency. It’s all part of my story – the issues still linger in the shadows, but, thankfully, I don’t feel stuck back in those low points too often.

  3. 3 brunettekoala September 2, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for writing this. I think you make some excellent points. Funny how Powerpoint for you did the exact same thing Powerpoint has done for me!!

    In both bad times and good times, it’s important to have space to wrestle and to praise…

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin September 2, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Funny how God can use things where we offer to serve to actually be the things that bless us. I guess I mightn’t have ended up ever contemplating leading worship had I not got involved in Powerpoint. I guess I would never have thought about leading from behind a drum kit if I hadn’t heard of my friend, Allan, discovering joy in that after he left a brilliant band whom I used to love going to see live…

  5. 5 Atheist October 14, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Ahem. God doesn’t exist, and Will Oldham was not singing about him.

    The end.

  6. 6 thestatethatiamin October 15, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    You’re right in that Will Oldham isn’t singing about God in that song. I guess, I just think he’s a great and gifted songwriter and, from time to time, his songs touch on spiritual elements too.

    I was listening to the song recently and I got to thinking about my own experience of darkness or of difficult times. The post was just an expression and examination of a tough time in my own life and what I experienced through it. From what you have posted, I can only conclude that your life expereinec has lead you to a different view.

  7. 7 scottgladstone November 11, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Regarding Oldham’s intent see various books on authorial intent. What you hear is maybe and frequently not what the writer wrote, y’see.

    Other than that – well wow.

    _Maybe we need to be honest with ourselves and honest with God in the good times every bit as much as in the tough times._

    I talk more to God in the bad times but I am less honest. My friend who had just, well six months, had a kid said that it lets him see a bit what it is like to be Him as father. His kid wriggles and squirms when getting washed and sometimes jerks the wrong way and water goes up her nose. I am like that wriggling and squirming when God is making me clean – all because, and despite the clear words in Hebrews 4, I don’t think I am worth it. But I am working on it

  8. 8 Lucy January 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks for directing me to this entry. It’s good to share experiences – and know that we are not the only ones struggling with these things.

  9. 9 thestatethatiamin January 5, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Thanks Lucy. you are not alone. Deep peace.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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