My heart is flooded. Overwhelmed. Longing to weep. Why is it that we can’t let ourselves wail and weep? There are many cultures that actually know how to mourn. No one in those cultures look at a mourning person like they are crazy for wailing, laying on the ground, covered in snot.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
My close friend, Rich Caldwell, (Flyleaf’s sound engineer of ten years) was like a brother to me. I went to his funeral last year. The strangest thing about the whole experience was how badly I wanted to lay on the ground and wail at the top of my lungs, but how obvious it was, that to do that, would not have been appropriate. And then I thought how strange it was that everything was so very quiet. It sounded like a packed library. So many people moving slowly and whispering.. no one really talking… no one really crying…
But everything in me wanted to just pour out my heart of mourning and questions, out loud, before God. I wished everyone there could have done the same.
Maybe if they had loud enough music and dark enough lights, people could actually have done that. Maybe if they had done that, I would have had the courage to do what I really wanted to do: Put my hands on the casket and boldly and loudly ask Jesus to raise Rich from the dead. I was so mad. I still am mad that he died. It’s like I’m mad at death itself. It just seems like he still has so much more do… like raise his 3 year old son, have more babies, love his wife Katy, and travel the world and see how great he has done impacting the lives of so many people. I’m not complaining about the funeral. It was one of the most beautiful and sobering experiences of my life. I’m just wondering about why things are the way they are.
I felt so sad for Katy because she had to sort of host the funeral. I just think it’s so unfair to expect someone’s widow to meet and greet dozens of people when she just lost her husband… But I suppose Katy didn’t think of it the way I think about meet and greets, where you have to give everyone something… Maybe people were really giving her what she needed. But at the time, I was so concerned about being another person to entertain, that I didn’t know if I should even go hug her. But when I did, it was so very hard for me not fall apart and wail and start yelling at God while I had her in my arms. Even now as I type this, the memories come back… but because my son is in the other room, I have to hold my breath while I weep, so that he won’t be scared of my demonstrative mourning.
I think this was one of my favorite parts about being in a rock band. Being on stage during a rock concert is one of the only places I can think of where you can let all your emotions out, and let the full spirit of what you are performing take over your body. It’s totally appropriate to lay on the ground and scream into the microphone, as the lead singer of a rock band. If I felt like it, I could even skip a verse and spend the whole time on my face praying, with my mourning heart, over the dark audience. I could change the lyrics and spit, with passion and fullness, the truth I wanted to speak into that particular city. I could yell at the top of my lungs about my love for God, or I could scream from the depth of my heart justice and triumph over evil.
Today I was praying. All of the sudden, an understanding came over my heart about how much God loves and trusts us. At the first glimpse of this understanding, my heart broke, like anyone’s would who’s a hard time hanging onto this truth in the face of tragedy. I know God loves us, but I don’t always understand it. I don’t always feel it. My head knows it’s true, but my heart doesn’t always sense it’s truth. But once I started to understand it this morning, I felt the tears welling up. As I kept praying, it was like the curtain was being pulled back more and more. Light was slowly spreading the warmth of revelation across my heart.
The more I understood, the more my heart broke. I found myself holding my breath so I wouldn’t wail. Finally, my heart was just completely melted by this understanding of the love of God for all people. I could hardly sit up. But for some reason, I held myself in check. I would not let myself go. It felt so similar to how I felt at Rich’s funeral. Only I wasn’t mourning my friend’s death and all that it meant. I was simply overwhelmed with the love of God for all people.
The love of God is not something you can simply read about and understand. If you do understand at all, it’s because God has pulled back a curtain in your heart. It’s because you are in such a vulnerable, quiet place that you can hear, and see.. and for some reason you have become open to letting God teach you about His love. It’s definitely something you can pray for. And I think it is one of the greatest prayers we can actually pray. I think it’s one God loves to answer.
“Lord God, who made all people and the whole universe. Help me understand your love for me and for the world.”
But it’s also a prayer that can wreck your life. You start to realize how wrong your priorities have been. You start to realize how your idea of love is so puny and not anything like true love at all. You start to understand how little you value yourself compared to how valuable you really are, and how silly the things we complain, worry and fight about are. All of this understanding can happen in an instant. This is one of the reasons it’s so overwhelming to begin to understand the love of God. This is one of the reasons why some people cry when they worship God. They are not singing a song about nice ideas. They are singing to and about the living God of all creation who is Himself Love. He is the very purpose we were created.
Every time we turn our whole heart towards Him, there is a the very real possibility of having a true encounter with the God of the universe who made you. We start to realize, in that moment, how we can do nothing without Him, and that with Him all things are possible.
True moments with God can be so overwhelming that we absolutely must let go of everything we are holding onto, in order to really grasp it. That’s why the whole affair can become quite undignified. There is a part in the Bible where King David is so taken by the joy of the Lord that He took off all his clothes, except his underwear, and danced before the Lord with all his might.
While King David was dancing, his wife looked out the window and saw him. She immediately despised him in her heart. As soon as he came inside to greet her she commented angrily about how ridiculous it was for a king to be dancing, half naked, in front of slave girls, like a vulgar person.
King David’s response was:
“I will celebrate before the Lord and be even more undignified than this!”
There was a moment there where King David could have heeded to this demonic stronghold of ‘respectability’ that demands we care more about what people will think than we care about giving our whole hearts and lives to God. But instead, King David refused to let the opinions of people quench the fire in his heart for God. He wouldn’t even put His own wife in front of His relationship with God.
I’ve recently heard the phrase many times, “Praying something through.” I read a book on my plane trip to South Africa called ‘Remarkable Miracles’ It was about this man who had seen so many miracles happen in his life, he couldn’t even fit them all into his 300 page book. But the basic idea was that no matter what he was praying for, he always allowed time to ‘pray it through’. If he went to pray with a person, he would make sure they got ‘prayed through’. Many times, for some reason, they would all end up on the floor, wailing. But by the end of the ‘praying it through’, which took anywhere from a few minutes, to several days of only praying (not even eating), there was always an amazing miracle that would happen. I don’t think many of us are willing to spend the time or risk the embarrassment of what may happen during the process of getting our breakthrough.
I think when Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He may be referring to people who are facing life for what it really is, and letting themselves go… to the point where all their reservations about being honest before God and man are gone. I think He is referring to people who are willing to take the time and the potential mockery from others, to truly mourn and also worship. He wants genuine relationship with us, not a respectable religious stance. He wants our hearts, not our lip service or our respectable works. He wants us to be real with Him. And when we are real, then he can really comfort us. When we cry out to Him with our whole heart, then He is able to respond to our whole heart with His comfort.
Kairos is the greek word for God’s perfect time. It’s like an eternal moment in our chronological experience here on earth. It’s what I like to call a Flyleaf moment… A moment of clarity.. A moment where we somehow touch eternity and the eyes of our hearts open up to something beyond our earthly human experience. It’s funny to think my husband was in a band called Kairos before he knew who Flyleaf was. We were both in bands named after a moment with God.
My husband Josh and his brother Jason realized something while playing in a local band a few years ago. Many times, when you’re in a local music scene, you see another band play, and immediately thoughts of comparison and competition flood your thinking. If you can’t relate to this, then girls, we know how this happens when we get ready to present our pretty side to the world at school. We finally arrive on campus, after all our hard work, and immediately begin to judge the appearance of the first girl we see. Even ones we call our close friends.
There is a great line from John Mellencamp’s song ‘Wild Nights’ that I think of whenever I’m getting ready to go out with girlfriends..
‘All the girls walk by, dressed up for each other.’ he sings.
Its true. A lot of our presentation has to do with the fact that we know we will be judged by the girls. But of course there is always that wildcard girl that no one really understands. When you talk to her, she has this mysterious ability to just be herself. You know she is not concerned in the least with your opinion of her. She doesn’t notice your disdainful eyes staring at her weird shoes. If you make a comment about them, she laughs and says something like, “Yea I guess they are kinda weird.” Then she looks up like she is proud of her weirdness. She either has a lot of random friends from every click, or she doesn’t have many friends at all and doesn’t seem to mind. There is no judgement in her for others, so she has a hard time receiving judgement from others.
In the music scene, you rarely come across a band brave enough to be themselves. But when you do, as an artist you are either intrigued, inspired and convicted, or you are condescending and critical, calling your criticism contructive… “If they would only stop twitching like that, and change that stupid shirt then maybe I could listen to their music.”
When we started Passerby as a local band I was always haunted by these words from Jesus:
“You will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:2)
I always thought, “If I trash talk a band, somewhere there will be a person trash talking us.” So I always tried to find good things to think and say about the local bands in our area.
Josh and Jason saw all the competition in their local music scene. They had it in their hearts to start a group that would foster local unity and inspiration. They would call the group MAP, the Music Alliance of Pittsburgh. MAP would commit to going to each others shows, supporting each other however they could, and meeting together regularly to be build relationships. When their band broke up a while ago the idea sort of fizzled out. But recently we have picked the idea back up and started a similar version of this calling it MAAP, the Music and Art Aliance of Pittsburgh. We meet once a week, have a meal together and talk about what God is teaching us as artists and musicians. We pray for each other and have become a sweet little family. I’m so proud of the artists in our group and I can’t wait to see all that God will do with these talented, humble leaders.