FAM! My husband, James Todd Coleman, man of my dreams and love of my heart, wrote a blog post. And it is really, very good. James is my constant support and has been so encouraging this lenten season. He has read every single one of my posts and is always in a race against my mom to like each post first! James is so wonderful and I am so excited to bring you the words of my incredible husband, partner, and friend. I can’t believe I get to talk to this guy every single day.
I love you James.
“You are guilty of no evil, Ransom of Thulcandra, except a little fearfulness. For that, the journey you go on is your pain, and perhaps your cure: for you must be either mad or brave before it is ended.”
-C S Lewis Out of the Silent Planet
Pain and suffering seem to have nothing at all to do with hope and joy. People (me too, I’m a person) constantly wonder why pain and suffering are such a ubiquitous part of this existence. Then, once you jump that hurdle (or maybe you just picked it up to carry with you down the track), you’re left wondering what to do about it. Where does the hope and joy factor into this equation?
Here is your preface, and your warning to just turn back now. I don’t know. Really, at best I have an inkling of an idea, and will try (very poorly, believe me, I’ve already read this) to communicate only that inkling. I am possibly the least qualified to write on this topic, considering my extremely fortunate life, and lack of experience as a writer. All of that said, if you’re still here, lets try.
Where do we begin? I guess we could set the stage with an example…
Meet Elvis Perkins: songwriter, guitarist, musician. He is the son of photographer Berinthia Berenson-Perkins and actor Anthony Perkins, best known as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Now, obviously bad things happen all the time, but Elvis just might be particularly unfortunate. For those that hadn’t heard, Anthony Perkins died in the early 90s. He died of AIDS, in pain and probably very misunderstood in that specific time in history. Elvis was a teenager. Fast forward to 2001, 8 years and 364 days since Anthony’s death, to September 11, a Tuesday. Elvis, now 25 years old, loses his mother, Berinthia, in a fiery plane crash, as the world watches in confusion. Over the next 5 years, he writes an album with more depth and beauty than I’ve heard on almost any other, including the following lyrics (bonus points for being tangentially related to Lent):
On that day
Nine suns away
From that sad sad Saturday
When fire my friend
Fire my villain
Would take away yesterday
To give to me today
Nothing’s free, no now it’s Ash Wednesday
In case it didn’t make sense to you, Ash Wednesday refers to the day after 9/11, as the dust settles from his mother’s tragic and horrible death, on the 9th anniversary of his father’s death. Some more lyrics for consideration:
All the doors are shut
And the windows barely opened up
The fire’s all around
It’s the ending of the drought
And we are ready now
For tear gas clouds
On my mind, come on fill the house
Finally and weep
For it’s king and queen sleep
Both now in the arms of Ash Wednesday
Here is a link to the song Ash Wednesday, by Elvis Perkins. I highly recommend a listen, with lyrics handy, especially to remind yourself what sadness and loss feels like, in case you were having a really good day up until now. Go listen.
Done? Whew! Sad, right? So what now, then?
It has been said that you just need a little faith. You just need a little hope. You just need to believe. Even John 3:16, all time MVP bible verse, makes this recommendation. “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” That SOUNDS good, but don’t we need a foundation first? Something IN WHICH to believe. Here’s the thing, that same person who wrote the all-time-MVP bible verse, also wrote 21 chapters worth of material in the same book! Meanwhile, there are three other books on basically the same subject.
Thanks to Timothy Whitley for the recent reminder (and source of my frequent plagiarism) that those books are NOTHING if not the revelation of the character of God. Jesus shows himself to be the embodiment and the very essence of all beauty, goodness, forgiveness, joy, and love. I can’t do a better job than the first four books of the New Testament at proving this, and I suggest you read them if you have not yet done so. For now, for argument’s sake, take my word that God is love. God IS love. GOD. IS. LOVE. Let that sink in and consider this next:
“By beholding, we are to become changed; and as we meditate upon the perfections of the divine Model, we shall desire to become wholly transformed, and renewed in the image of His purity.”
-Ellen G White
Interesting note, this was written in the 1890s, many years before the study of psychology would reach a similar conclusion. This also happens to be the basic idea of a verse from 2nd Corinthians, obviously written nearly 2,000 years before that. Now for the not so tricky part. Consider John 3:16 in this context. Instead of signing your name on a dotted line next to a stated belief, you have the face of a living God and you are simply asked to look. Instead of a belief, in its most shallow definition, you have the infinite depths of character and love. By beholding we become changed, so we are asked to “behold” and “have everlasting life!”
That’s all fine and good, but what about poor, sad Mr. Perkins?! Like I said earlier, the entire album was written in reflection of this horrible loss. A quick selection of song titles reflects this: All the Night Without Love, May Day, The Night and the Liquor, It’s a Sad World (no hiding behind metaphor here). But keep listening and you will hear what sounds like the audio equivalent to a light at the end of the tunnel. Good Friday (more bonus points for Lent reference number two). Here is the song, here are the lyrics, and here is a key verse (the final words spoken on the album):
Though this life
Is Ash Wednesday
It’s Ash Wednesday
It forever approaches Good Friday
So what did little Elvis do? What brought him hope? Is this even an example of hope? I don’t know, I don’t know, and ABSOLUTELY. Whatever it is, it sounds like a really big deal. And HIS hope gives ME hope, and I can’t explain that either! So… behold. Just behold. And if it results in you going out and doing good things for other people, you might just be looking at the right thing. As Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1957:
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Behold. And start living.