It Was Never Mine to Hold

when all the world is blossoming
when everything around is bursting into life
and I don’t have to strain to hear the beat of Your heart
oh, oh…

when all the world is under fire
when the skies are threatening to thunder and rain
and I am overcome by fears that I can’t see
oh, oh…

if everything is Yours, everything is Yours
if everything is Yours,
I can let it go; it was never mine to hold.

who could command the stars to sing
or hold the raging seas from breaking through the doors
and tend the fragile roses with the very same hands?
oh, oh…

I can let it go–I can let it go
Cause everything is Yours, everything is Yours.

I just heard “Everything is Yours” by new artist Audrey Assad. I recently found this artist through a facebook ad… funny, right? It goes to show that God can even use those annoying facebook ads to His glory.

What I think is interesting is the way she takes a familiar theme – that of trusting God both in the good circumstances and the bad – and fits it to a song with touching lyrics and a heartwarming melody in a way that it seems new and beautiful and like a hot cup of chicken noodle soup on a cold, rainy day.

While this song is encouraging, speaking of God who commands the stars to sing, holds the raging seas from breaking through the doors, and tends roses, there seems to be a hint of sadness. There is the God who owns everything, takes care of everything, while there is the fragile human spirit who is grasping so tightly to the things that was really never hers to hold.

Letting go is something I’ve always had a problem with. I’m the human whose happiness always seems to depend on whether I get what I think I want. Or whether I get to keep the things that I hold so dear.

Even my hurts. There is a certain comfort to holding a familiar hurt and nursing it through many weeks or months of brooding. There’s a certain feeling one gets from twisting the knife in again and again… and it’s so easy to get used to the pain to the point where when we’re given a chance to give up the pain, it’s unthinkable and so we turn it down. I turned down the chance many times because I’d lived with the pain so long that I couldn’t think of living without it. So I thought about it day after day. I dreamed about it at night… and I really didn’t want to let it go even though it hurt so much.

It’s interesting that even pain can be so dear… I didn’t want to relinquish it even though I had no claim on it.

I eventually was forced to let it go. Circumstances called for it and I found that it wasn’t as difficult letting go as I thought. But even now I still struggle with the thought that the life I live is not totally my own.

It’s Your sacred heart within me beating, Your voice within me calling out…

There is a certain irony to all this.

We are so unwilling to let go of the things that we could do very well without. Please don’t take it away, it’s mine, I’ve lived with it so long I don’t think I could do without it. If you take it away I will be lost… if you take him away I don’t think my heart can beat the same way… You have no right to take it away. Those thoughts fill us, consume our small fragile hearts, and meanwhile we do our best to hang on to a shred of something that we think is solidarity but is no better than the shadow world we live in.

Meanwhile, the things we so desperately need are the things we are so hesitant about reaching out and taking hold of.

But we are offered the chance to let go of all those things because God wants us to experience so much more of what he has for us. He wants us to grow beyond our pain and learn things like trust and humility and faith. He doesn’t want us to focus on all the reality of our hurts but reach for the unknown beauty of the eternal.

He wants us to be whole again.

And there are always comfort for our pain. We need that, too.

Enjoy the spring sunshine and the warmth outside!

ps: i think the lyrics in the vid might be incorrect. I’ve put up in the beginning of this post what I believe are the correct lyrics. Meanwhile, Audrey Assad’s LP comes out in June. Buy it. I’m going to.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on…

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

—Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Depiction of Miranda by John William Waterhouse

I recently reread The Tempest for my Western Civilization class. This passage, located in Act 4, Scene 1, almost seems to be a declaration of the fragility and temporariness of life. Ironically, Prospero spoke these lines after the celebration of his daughter Miranda’s and Ferdinand’s union.

Interesting time to expound upon the fragility of human life and the ethereal beauty of our dreams and visions. I suppose if I were getting married, I wouldn’t want my father to give a toast and say, “Sorry to tell you this, but death is going to come sooner than you realize.”

At the same time, it’s sobering to realize that our lives are shorter than we think. Our bodies are not as indestructible as we’d like to believe they are. Even the dreams that consume our thoughts can change upon a whim of circumstance. Perhaps when contrasted with the vastness of eternity, our lives are indeed “little” as Shakespeare notes. Maybe ourselves against the reality of a great God is as a small ship upon a infinite ocean.

Reading this play made me wonder what place God has for us in the whole of eternity if we are as fragile as the dreams we carry.

To think that I could hold a piece of eternity someday seems presumptuous. To think that by the grace of God, I hold a piece of eternity within me right now seems even more presumptuous. And yet I can say that, because I believed…

We are fragile in the sense that our bodies can easily crumble into dust; however, there remains the fact that there is a Life beyond this life. A Life which lasts for infinity. Often we make the mistake of thinking that our real life is this one, and that the one that comes after is, well, what comes after. In our imaginings and vague sermon descriptions, we feel that that Life is rather like a dream life. Has it ever occurred to us that the life we are living right now, though important to live well, is the dream life?

We could get so used to the life we’re living right now. I don’t mean that we should not love life, because this life is given to us to be loved and enjoyed and lived to its fullest. But we could get used to its smallness and shadows and earthquakes and tsunamis and tempests and petty unseen heartbreaks. We could get used to believing that our shadow life is our reality that we must harden ourselves to and become complacent with. But there is a reason that a yearning exists for something greater than what we are experiencing right now.

I think C.S. Lewis said it best.

And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last  they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis

Have I ever stopped to think that one day I could be living life as part of some as yet unknown but exciting Great Story? That life could be so much truer and fuller and more whole than what it is right now?

Have you?

I believe that we do have eternity after all. And that we should live our “dream lives” in anticipation of that which is to come.

Never Move On

What love is this, that love should die?
Now I am His and He is mine
What a love came down to rescue me?
Where I was bound He set me free.

I don’t need a new truth
All I need is more of You

Held captive here in all of grace
Joy found in tears upon Your face
And all my shame just disappears
My guilt erased when I am here

To the cross I will run for all my savior has done
I will stay here, never move on
No other moment in time, so glorious, so divine
I will stay here, never move on…

Never Move On, by Meredith Andrews

To the cross I shall cling

We think of ourselves as individuals supposed to continually move through life. Kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, graduating college with a degree, going back to school for multiple degrees perhaps, and then getting a nice job, settling down with a nice family and children and a dog, and perhaps expecting to progress through the levels of that job. Lack of progress, or of growth, is viewed very negatively. For example, there is nothing wrong with taking a year off between college or graduate school, or even during one’s college career. However, those people who do choose to do so are questioned. Won’t stepping out of college for a year damage your chances of getting a good job or getting into a good graduate school? Won’t you be behind all your friends who are graduating when you’re supposed to graduate? What are you doing, you slacker, sitting around at home twiddling your thumbs?

This view is understandable, though. We don’t want to remain stagnant, but rather go places. We want to become better individuals than the ones we are right now. In fact, we’re supposed to. At the same time, there’s a reason why people call this a rat race. At some point, this seemingly endless chasing of a future becomes exhausting. This all becomes permeated with a fear that perhaps one day, one will fall behind. And then how can one ever catch up? The task of living life and the concerns of roles to be played to perfection becomes consuming. Our ultimate fear is that we will fail in our quest to stay on top of life.

But perhaps this is what we should be afraid of: that in our haste to become something, we become empty shells of people, holding on to our only partially fulfilling existences by a thread of insecurity.

So when that view is compared to the one presented in this song, it seems almost ironic, doesn’t it? The worshipper in this song, realizing the extent of God’s love for her, runs to the cross and clings to it and vows to never move beyond it. For once, she’s staying in one place.

What love is this, that love should die?

All I need is more of You

It’s true that to move beyond Christ’s sacrifice is impossible. As Christians, we live in eternal awareness of God’s love for us. It flows through our interactions with others and stays with us wherever we go. It remains, even as time passes and we either change into people with deeper understandings of God and His Word, or move away from the cross into darker territory. Such a symbol of an overwhelmingly deep love transcends the one moment of time it occurred in. While being a sign of pain and of unspeakable shame, it also became a sign of glory and shame erased, both for us and for Christ. It is also a sign of freedom, from bondage to sin and all the other things your Sunday school teachers and pastors have probably told you.

The worshipper has realized that because of those reasons, she can and should stay at the foot of the cross and not move from it. It is never a good thing to take this sacrifice for granted, or to discount its power. While being a place of rest, it is never a place of stagnancy, but of continual growth – growth that is never hectic or frantic. It is consuming, yes, but in the best possible way.

I think we will find that we are able to live our lives without straying from the foot of the cross, and that we can grow while staying in the same place.