Spiritual Meaning in the Music of the Night

man-phantom

Last night I enjoyed an unanticipated spiritual connection as I watched Phantom of the Opera with my wife. My heart was moved as I found deeper meaning in the beloved song “All I Ask of You”. Looking again at these lyrics, I am reminded of the reciprocal love pursued through my deepening relationship with God. I invite you to read the following lyrics, seeing this scene through spiritual eyes (names changed to help you). Maybe you too will be touched.

(God)
No more talk of darkness
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I’m here, nothing can harm you
My words will warm and calm you

Let me be your freedom
Let daylight dry your tears
I’m here, with you, beside you
To guard you and to guide you

(You)
Say you’ll love me every waking moment
Turn my head with talk of summer time
Say you need me with you now and always
Promise me that all you say is true
That’s all I ask of you

[God]
Let me be your shelter
Let me be your light
You’re safe, no one will find you
Your fears are far behind you

[You]
All I want is freedom
A world with no more night
And you, always beside me
To hold me and to hide me

[God]
Then say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime
Let me lead you from your solitude
Say you need me with you here, beside you
Anywhere you go, let me go too
_______(Your name), that’s all I ask of you

[You]
Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime
Say the word and I will follow you

[Both]
Share each day with me, each night, each morning

[You]
Say you love me

[God]
You know I do

[Both]
Love me, that’s all I ask of you.

[Both]
Anywhere you go, let me go too
Love me, that’s all I ask of you

-By Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP-C

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The Transforming Embrace of Jesus

This year is nearing extinction. The last hours of 2014 are departing like visitors that have outstayed their welcome. In these diminishing moments, we often look back, look inward, and look forward. We remember and we expect.

When I ponder the past year, I recall both opportunities and disappointments. I am keenly aware of both imperfect instances and times of triumph. As I imagine ahead, there is an incalculable amount of issues worth improving in 2015. But when I quiet the voices of discontentment and tune into the lone song in my soul, only one change is required and desired. In this New Year, I yearn to experience the transforming embrace of Jesus.

Brennan Manning writes about this intimate experience in his precious book Abba’s Child. He highlights an experience when John, the “disciple Jesus loved”, was “reclining next to Jesus”, leaning back against his chest (John 13:23-25). What a picture of intimacy, security, belonging, and trust.

In light of this account, Manning shares that “until I lay my head on Jesus’ breast, listen to His heartbeat, and personally appropriate the Christ-experience of John’s eyewitness, I have only a derivative spirituality” (p 126). This experience with Jesus changes us. I long for that experience as this old year sets and the new one rises.

Manning chose to be embraced in his desperation. His account was this: “As the alcoholic fog lifted, I knew there was only one place to go. I sank down into the center of my soul, grew still, and listened to the Rabbi’s heartbeat” (p 133). We are invited to do the same; to “remain in His love” (John 15:9).

How beautiful it is that Jesus wants to interact with us in this way. He is not a distant Deity. He wishes to hold us. As the scriptures say, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11).

This Divine embrace quiets, comforts, and changes us.

Changed in His Embrace

I wonder what would change this next year as I allowed myself to lavish in the Savior’s loving arms? I imagine Christ holding me in this way and the physical warmth of His chest beside my cheek melting into my spirit, dissolving my insecurities. Brennan points out that this disciple who was held by Jesus was the one who later penned the words “In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love” (1 John 4:18). His loving embrace dissolves fear.

Similarly, his hugs heal our pain. This interaction is illuminated in Brandon Hathaway’s powerful poem called “The Hug Poem”:

Count on countless siren songs this New Year. The competition for comfort outside of Christ is continuous. Where we choose comfort is where we connect. All the more reason to rest in our Source of strength instead the arms of the adulteresses of our day. Remember that “when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). In His infusing presence, we transcend our limitations, becoming someone we never were before. In other words, “The recovery of passion starts with reappraising the value of the treasure, continues with letting the Great Rabbi hold us against His heart, and comes to fruition in a personal transformation of which we will not even be aware” (Manning, p 133).

In 2015, may we experience the embrace that dispels despair and pacifies pain. May we rest in our Abba’s assurance. May we hear His heartbeat and may unprecedented transformation result simply because we have been with Jesus.

“In the arms of Jesus, I will find my peace and rest
I hear Him calling, come to me and rest
Carried by my Shepherd, cradled tightly to His chest
There and there alone, my soul finds rest
So I will rest in the shelter of my Savior’s embrace
Hidden safely in the refuge of His mercy and His Grace
And I will sing hallelujah to the One who sets me free
And you will find me in the arms of Jesus”

– Steven Curtis Chapman

Wishing all of you a New Year of transformation! I wholeheartedly appreciate all of you who read my articles and share them with others.

Blessings,

Forest Benedict

Additional articles referring to Brennan Manning: The Incomplete Christian Life, Prayer of a Fatherless Father, and Accepting Abba’s Affection

For future articles and inspiration, please follow my blog and “like” my Facebook page (and share with others). Thanks!

“My Dichotomy” by Joel Lux

A friend of mine shared this poem with me today. It resonated with me and I thought others would relate and benefit from reading it. If you like his writing, check out his blogs entitled “The Luminous End” and “Plight of the Introvert“.

My Dichotomy

Let us sing. Let us sing!

I open my mouth but what comes out is not the prettiest thing
After all who am to think that both salt water and fresh could come from this spring

I am the descendant of two sinners in love

I have seen both the profound and profane running through my veins
And it’s no wonder I can’t help but sing

I find my shame in the cheek that I kissed

The dead I buried, the wealth that I miss
I find my shame in the still abounding old man
In the water upon which I just can not seem to stand
I find my shame in every selfish thing I do

Lower us down. Lower us down!

In our beds through the roof to the ground
I tried to run the race but ran out of space and tripped over my own legs as I attempted it in my own strength

So lower us down. Lower us down!

From my high-top soapbox atop which I sit down here in the depths of this bottomless pit
And even in my pride behind which I hide I have to admit before all is said and done
I’ve got two spirits in the heart of one

I find my hope in a hole in the roof

In a Sycamore tree, in the hem of the Truth
I find my hope in words written in the sand
In Your wounded side and the holes in Your hands
Even in my shame, I find my hope in You!

A Poem of Pain

Writing is God’s gift to me. It has proven to be a tool through which I have found meaning. Wielding words, I have processed pain and calmed chaos within. This poem I wrote in 2008 reveals this very experience. In a raw and revealing fashion, it wraps words around writhing loneliness and hurt. It subtly speaks volumes. It is real. I thank God for the great gift of writing that blesses my soul. May others forage meaning here too.

The Path of Pain

Peering through the underbrush

The bushes moist with dew

My eyes review a lonesome camp

And note the solitude

“Papa, are you down there?”

My quivering question looms

I walk down the buried path

His death my heart assumes

Strewn across a clearing’s floor

The shrapnel of dad’s disease

Can a hundred Buds so satisfy

Or only the first drink?

Silence is a peeler

Against my soul’s soft skin

Seconds slide, I bleed the pain

That seeps from missing him

Hope evolves to anger

Questions maul my mind

Branded by my loathing love

By which I am defined.

(Forest Benedict, 2008)

*Note: The story did not end here. Read “Prayer of a Fatherless Father” to learn more about the healing journey.

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