Editor’s Note: Helena Sorensen is no stranger to regular readers of Story Warren. She has written several lovely guest posts that we’ve been pleased to share. I’m so delighted to welcome her now as a full-time, regular contributor. This mainly means that you’ll be assured of hearing from Helena in this space on a very regular basis. That’s good news for us all. The author of the YA fantasy novel, Shiloh, Helena is a brilliant writer, a tremendous musician, and a humble, thoughtful mom on a journey (among other things). For those of you coming to Inkwell, you’ll get to meet Helena in person. For those people and for the rest, please enjoy this wonderful post that inspire us to sing in, and against, the dark. Thank you, Helena, and welcome! –Sam
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My children sing to themselves all day long. They hum snatches of hymns and folk tunes and theme songs. They transition seamlessly from “Frosty the Snowman” to Gungor, to Slugs & Bugs. It makes me happy to hear the joyful contentment in their sweet, small voices. But in the evening, after teeth are brushed and pajamas donned, after the noise machine has been turned to its “Rain” setting and the star-projecting turtle set to “Blue,” I turn off the lights. And then I sing to my children.
I hadn’t thought about it before, about the careful ordering of this routine. I never begin the bedtime songs until the lights go out, because this is the time when my children most desperately need my songs. This is the time just before the long, dark hours when fear and nightmares threaten. During the day, the need is not so great. They’ve learned to sing in the sunlight, when all is well, when there are toys to play with and food to eat, when Mommy and Daddy are close at hand. But they have not yet learned to sing in the dark, to sing into the darkness.
I always marvel at Jehoshaphat’s battle strategy. This king of Judah was faced with the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. He was overwhelmed by the size and strength of the enemy, and he gathered his people and called on the Lord. When the Lord answered, they marched out into battle, and who do you suppose walked ahead of the armies? Who walked into the valley of destruction to stand face-to-face with the darkness? The singers.
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord…that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.
And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.
II Chronicles 20:21, 22
Jesus sat at the table with eleven of his disciples. His time had come. Judas had betrayed him. The garden of Gethsemane, his trial, his cross awaited him. But before he walked to the Mount of Olives and stepped under the crushing weight of humanity’s brokenness, before he placed himself in the hands of all the forces of darkness, he sang a hymn. (Mark 14:26)
Paul and Silas sat in the darkness of a Philippian prison. Their choices were limited, certainly. But they might have prayed for their release or their healing. They might have wept or struggled against their bonds. They might even have shouted the gospel through the stony caverns of the prison. Instead, they sang a song. And their voices shook the walls. (Acts 16:25)
It is no small thing to sing when the strength of the Enemy is arrayed against you, when the Valley of the Shadow of Death waits just outside your door, when you are broken and bound in a lightless prison. It is no small thing to sing in the dark, to raise a song of remembrance and praise as a weapon against the darkness. My children don’t yet know to sing through the fear. They don’t yet have the strength.
So I sing over them. With my voice, with my words, I weave a covering for them. I pray they ease into sleep knowing that they are safe, that they are loved. And when the darkness comes and threatens to unmake them, when darkness is all they can see, I pray they will remember how I stood in the dark and lifted an anthem, how I raged against the darkness with beauty and song.
The night is so long, but the morning comes swiftly on its heels. Even now, it comes. Let’s sing to the end, my friends.
Featured Image by Paul Boekell