Sounds like a joke without a punchline. Just a quick thought or two here, bear with me…
I make no attempt to hide that I love this song. I have a playlist in iTunes called ‘Stomach Lurchers’ full of songs that feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. These are songs that instantly transport me to a time, a place or a feeling. In case you were wondering, Linkin Park, Blink-182 and other bands from my teenage years feature heavily. As do Dido and Sophie Ellis-Bextor. No guilt.
What do I really love about Loud Places? The tone, the subtle textures and the smooth vocals all certainly play a part. The thing that grabbed me, though, took a good few weeks of listening on repeat before sinking in. Take a look at some of the lyrics:
I go to loud places
To search for someone
To be quiet with
Who will take me home
You go to loud places
To find someone who
Will take you higher than
I took you
Didn’t I take you to higher places you can’t reach without me?
I won’t expand too much on this, for fear of overfilling a ‘God-shaped hole’ metaphor. I just love the simple phrasing, which carries a deep, powerful message; these lyrics are remarkably honest. To continue the theme of my last blog post, this song communicates. I can feel the draw of the heights – the longing to return there.
How does this relate at all to CS Lewis? I listen to Loud Places most days – it’s a feel good song that sits near the top of my iTunes library and has colourful album art, it’s an easy choice. Today was one such occasion – it came on through my headphones whilst I was on my way to the station. I then got on to the train and opened my copy of The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis.
For those who haven’t read it, The Screwtape Letters is amazing – I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, and even though I’m only on chapter 8, it’s blown me away. Hense this tweet…
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Anyway, the chapter I read today (they’re very short chunks) is the one where senior demon ‘Screwtape’ tells his nephew, junior demon ‘Wormwood’ about the way life has cycles of up and down – “undulation”. Wormwood advises of his enemy [Christ’s] tactic of seeming to withdraw His presence during the low times, in order that the Christian may find his or her own feet:
Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into that sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.
The chapter is all about highs and lows, peaks and troughs. The quote above (emphasis mine) speaks of how Jesus sometimes removes the feeling of His presence from us when we are going through one of these lows, even though ‘in fact’ He is still close. The last line struck me – it’s during these low times that our prayers ‘are those which please Him best’. These prayers remember the heights of the peaks, and yet still trust God when they seem like a distant memory. These prayers appeal to the source of living water when all around feels dry.
Lord, you are the hope of Israel;
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the Lord,
the spring of living water.
I guess I should get to a point in all of this? Other than promoting a great song and a really great book, I hope this is post can serve as an encouragement to continue through the low times, and to trust Him there. After all, we serve, and are loved by the God who is with us in the valley.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.