Editor's Note: In conjunction with the release of his latest collection, The Acoustic Sessions, singer-songwriter Jason Gray has written reflections on the personal meaning each song has had to him. He graciously shared his thoughts on "I Will Rise Again" below.
"God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has been promised to those who love him."
-- James 1:12
"Pain, you break me down, you build me up..."
-- "Believer" by Imagine Dragons
Comedian Robert Gary Lee says, "Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain."
The wisdom writer says, "Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:6-7)
We are each the keeper of some wisdom that we have paid dearly for. Though it may have cost us everything, we know (in time, at least) that we are richer for it, because the lessons we learn through the pain of life are our gold. And once it is ours, we can spend it as we wish: to build a new life, to be empowered by it, and even to give it away. In giving away this gold, we find that it makes us richer still because it only becomes more valuable as we share it.
When I find myself with someone who has known great suffering and has allowed it to redemptively transform them, I know I am in the presence of greatness. This person hums with life, centered in both the truth of who they are as well as rooted in the kind of Truth that you spell with a capital "T." Conversations with such people leave my spirit feeling like I've feasted at a banquet.
I would like to be this kind of person for others. By God's grace I believe I can be, but only to the degree that I authentically engage with my life--the joy of it that opens my heart wide enough to draw me out of myself, and the pain of it that plunges me deep into the mystery where treasures of wisdom are waiting to be found.
Both are needed for balance, of course. Our joy becomes shrill and thin when we refuse to engage with the reality of suffering. But if we are too in love with our own depression, our pain becomes an emotional black hole that swallows all the light. Embracing the shadow and the light--the joy and the pain--will make us dynamic, wise, wounded healers.
We are more inclined to embrace the joy of life, of course--and we should be! But not at the expense of avoiding suffering at all costs. This only causes us more pain, the hollow kind that teaches us nothing and offers no treasure on the other side of it. The more fearful we are of pain, the more anxious we become over the slightest little thing that might upset our brittle happiness. As Thomas Merton says, "The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most." But suffering has no power over those who are not afraid of it. And once we learn to not fear it, we can learn to embrace it for all that it brings.
There is a poem I love by Rumi called "The Guesthouse" that says it well:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
In other words: when we see that the wrecking ball isn't only a tool of destruction but is a necessary part of reconstruction, we're less fearful when it crashes through the walls of our lives. We may even learn to welcome it in anticipation of the wisdom that, when reconstruction is done, will be set upon our head like a crown of life.
Jason Gray is a singer-songwriter who is part of the Centricity Music roster.
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