the life and times of a twenty year old designer

Archive for March 2012

Where There Is Darkness, Let There Be Light

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Wake up, wake up, Oh sleeper from the dead, Wake up
Rejoice you lonely and lost, you sick and despised, all will be made right.

Our cultural mythology is saturated with images of awakening what has long been asleep, welcoming home the lost and lonely, and reclaiming beauty from dust. When I saw Gungor in concert at the House of Blues in San Diego, the senses of awakening, welcoming, and reclaiming were powerfully present. It ranks as one of the most beautiful live entertainment experiences I’ve ever had. As I was riding home from the concert, there was so much in my head and on my heart. I struggled earlier in the night to find words to tell my friends how I was feeling, so I searched my purse for a pen, and unable to find one I began writing a text to myself in a desperate effort to express myself. Here’s what came out. It’s a bit raw, but I think it says a bit of what I mean:

The sheer joy of joining with the original creator(s) in the live act of creation. The redemption of all things. The pain of years of awful music, the ache of years of empty art. A celebration in the most beautiful way of the God who enters into relationship with our despicable broken selves. The pure heart of one whose scars speak of healing and restoration, of making all things new through the grace at the foot of the cross/throne, the message that it didn’t end with it all being easy or clear or resolved, but with a profound sense that it had all been worth it. The art elevated it above other experiences, and the passion to partner with Christ in creation was awe inspiring. The willingness to lay such powerful and profitable gifts at the foot of the cross was more than they could have easily been asked to give. It’s not about celebrity worship, it’s about welcoming the estranged patellas back into the body and giving the stiffened limbs freedom to move, to once again dance with joy and passion before the king.

To me, this somehow managed to say everything it needed to say. But for those who don’t live inside my mind (ok, that’s everyone!) I’d like to explain a bit more.

This concert spoke to aches and deep pains I’ve carried for a long time. I’ve written before about how I’ve often been frustrated with the quality of musicianship in church music. I remember going to churches growing up and coming home in tears because the music was so far from reflecting the passion and beauty that was the God I longed to see. On the other side, I’ve gone to dozens of “secular” concerts and been floored by the quality of the music and production, but ultimately left feeling unfulfilled. The music awakened an ache to connect to something beautiful, but never quite followed through with an answer. To see the band which has made some of the most beautiful worship music I’ve ever heard playing in a mainstream concert venue like the House of Blues was wonderfully redemptive, speaking into the desire to see God and music working together rather than being at odds with each other.

Why see this concert live, rather than just keep listening to the CD by myself? Partnership. Community. A sense that something beautiful was created in that moment, never to be replicated, and that the live act of creation was a partnership between the band and the audience and the creator of all things. And being able to witness the incredible musical gifts of the entire band (lead guitar, bass, drums, banjo, cellos, violin, keyboards, glockenspiel, and all the other cameo instruments) made me realize – they don’t have to be doing this. All of these people are talented enough to be able to headline a successful indie rock band if they were willing to live under a different banner, write songs about relationships and why they’re great and why they’re tough and why bars are awesome. But that’s not the life they chose. They took their gifts, and they did something that mattered. That was humbling and inspiring.

The structure of the concert – four movements from Creation, The Fall, The Bride, and Re-Creation, was a powerful heart journey. Not all of it was easy to swallow. The beauty was present, but so were the scars. The journey through our triumphs and failures made it clearer to see that every part had been absolutely essential to the whole, worth the pain even. By the time they returned to sing “Beautiful Things” as an encore, I had a new understanding of what it means to be in relationship with a God who makes beautiful things out of us. How even in the midst of the most acute awareness of our brokenness, He is creating life out of chaos, reminding us that this is not the end, and guiding us to the messiah who will make all things new.

When I was first writing I didn’t know why I picked the patella for an analogy, it was simply the first part to come to my mind. As I continued tapping letters into my phone, I realized that in many ways, the patella is exactly what the arts often become to the life of the church. A body part that is never the first to come to mind or the one all the heroic stories are written about, but which serves a beautifully vital role in the life of the whole. Yes, we can clump around on our stiffened limbs all we want, plodding through life in a utilitarian, functional manner, pretending we never feel the urge to bend. But isn’t life so much more beautiful when we bend our knees? Beautiful music bends our knees in all sorts of ways – calling us into reverent moments of awe and wonder, and giving us the freedom to dance and allow our bodies to say what our mouths cannot. My prayer is that we will not simply keep music as part of a checklist, or ever take it for granted, but that we would allow it to call us to bend our knees, in reverence, and in joy.

And that the music would always be there to remind us that this is not the end.


Written by Taylor Webster

March 19, 2012 at 11:28 am