he learned it haltingly in early spring, when the rain fell.
When the sky slid down all the window panes.
And a Sunday in spring, when a tornado sky rips up the earth, leaving this fury of questions, she plays on, the same song.
Now surer, steadier.
I stand at the windowsill.
It still rains.
The tomatoes plants try to stand in west winds, strong and straight. It’s true of all the windowed eyes we look into:
Everyone carries their own inner rain.
Her notes, they start low, an accepting slow, a bass.
Then her fingers, then, they reach high, valleys calling to heights.
There’s an ache, a haunting echo, and the notes feel like the far oriental east, as far as He has removed all that inflicts and breaks ties and sins.
She plays the notes like a winging, like a long leaving, like standing at the edge of what once was and witnessing the losing of something pure and prayed for.
It is like Asia weeping, like a sky crying.
Apple trees blossom brave in the orchard, white clouds come down in the storm.
“This one,” I turn to her at the piano, “ — it always makes me hurt just a bit, Hope.” Is it the the beauty of the song?
The exquisite simplicity and delicate perfection of every river of notes, of every soaring?
Or is it the longing of it, the loss and lostness of it?
This is always the wondering, how pleasure and pain both flow mingled down, rain quenching us, rain eroding us away, and there is no extricating life from loss. Hope plays the upper octaves, a questioning too.
Where is God when the sky crushes close and wind sucks the life out lungs lying helpless in hospital beds, sheers off the trees and the dreams and the child right there at the knees?
Where is God when a racing wave rises higher and hungry and slams into old grandmothers hunched, swallows up whole cities in one ravenous lunge?
Where is God when clouds twist and contort and rage whirl and graves seem to lie just waiting for filling?
I had read it after the earth quaked, when the sea didn’t back down but rose, after tornadoes tore up towns and spit out stripped, staggering men, I had read the disillusionment:
“It all just seems so fake.
This idea that good things happen to good people… that the meek and righteous will inherit the earth.
There’s too many good people who suffer for something like that to be true.”
I nod, I nod…
She strokes the keys soft.
The high notes, a showering.
And maybe it does come down to this: this one question I pound on heaven’s door:
Where is God when good things happen to the very bad people, when music and love and apple orchards happen to the likes of me, broken and dirty and busted?
Where is God when bad things happen to the only kind of people there are — not good people, all of us. All people like all people, fallen and badly bruised and bad, none of us ever pure good?
Where is God?
God is on the Cross, and God is in the tomb, and God is upon the Stone rolled away.
God is on the throne and God shows us His scars and God holds the bottle to catch all our tears because He can’t bear to let our grief spill careless and lost, and where is God when bad things and good things happen to all the bad people made good by Him?
This is where He is and always is:
The problem of evil is answered by the presence of Emmanuel: God is with us.
Hope leans into the ivories, a drawing closer, and the song, it is a far east clarion, and I whisper it, “What is this one called, Hope?”
The late light makes her a silhouette at music.
A shadow in song.
She hardly touches the melody, and she doesn’t have to, it already moving in me, and she murmurs it over the lilting, “Cherry Blossoms in Rain.”
Ah, exactly. That is it, this feeling lured out by the notes:
Petals flying away in the wind, the beauty falling all around — beauty and falling, grace…and grief. Our blooming whiteness in the orchard, those trees we planted years ago.
There is that phrase of the Psalmist’s song:
May those who sow in tears….
All these tears, all this rain. And yet… there is sowing, there is planting.
True, we may cry, but we press on for the crop.
We may sorrow but we still sow. And though we are broken, we still bend and begin; we do our work though we weep.
We tell our hurts we must still do the task at hand if we hope to harvest; though we may not feel like it, the fields need seeds.
So we hang out the clothes as we try to hang on, and we stir the pot as all the pain spills, and we still sow though in tears, and let go of every seed, burying hopes and hurts in faith, and out of loss, new life will unfurl, our tears watering rows.
God is with us. And it’s His tender with-ness that binds up the wounds.
Hope plays the song again, a grace touch in tears.
And again there’s an ache, a haunting echo —
After the last high note, Hope whispers it into the stilled dark: “Mama? That whole song?
The whole song — it’s played on the black notes.“
Life’s a piano. And it easy to think that the white keys are pure joy while all the black keys are pure grief.
But the thing is — The black notes can make music too.
The black notes can choose joy too.
The black notes — they are there to sing songs too.
Out in the orchard petals rise on the wind, blossoms in the rain.
And rain drips off the eave, making music down the walk.
3 Things to Hold on to When Life Hurts
1. God is with us — And it’s His tender with-ness that binds our wounds
2. Work though you weep. Sorrow — but still sow.
3. In the mourning — keep listening for the music.
Click here to listen to Hope playing Cherry Blossoms in Rain… (first pause the music player under header, clicking on the double bar?)
Related: The Resurrection Season Series
Has Anyone Seen Signs of the Easter People
When it Comes Time to Really Die
When There’s a Search for Eyewitnesses
How the Kids and the Next-Door Neighbors Might Really Become Christians
Tomb-Centered Christianity? Why it makes all the difference
What if More than Celebrating Easter, we lived it
repost from the archives
Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart. To read the entire series of spiritual practices
Next Week, might we prayerfully consider together: The Practice of Gospel: Looking for New Life We look forward to your thoughts, stories, reflections….
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