Monday, March 15, 2010

Long Nights In Irving Circle Park

Irvington has a spooky feel to it at night, which I suppose is appropriate for a place obsessed with Halloween and named after Washington Irving (author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"). I remember walking my dog, Annie, through Irving Circle Park one night a few days before Halloween last year. The combination of the crisp air, the crackling leaves beneath my feet, and a gusty east wind1 created a perfectly eerie Halloween atmosphere. The streets were deserted except for Annie and me, but it felt like someone - or something - was there. In that moment, I felt very, very alone.

I think some of the loneliest moments we have in life are when we feel like we must make a stand by ourselves. Tell me, what is lonelier than believing there is no one who loves you enough to stay with you through the night and fight - even if that fight is just against the east wind blowing through the deserted streets of Irvington?

And we are alone - we are alone in death and sin. I'm sorry; I don't really know how to sugarcoat it. Maybe I'm just overly cognizant of my own depravity [I am a Presbyterian after all], but I see evidence of my sin all the time. Sin is an alienating thing. I know whenever I think about it, I suddenly feel very alone. Because our sins seperate us from each other and from God.

But we are not without hope, because God has had mercy on the dead. Of course, we too often believe the lie that we have been left for dead in our sin.

There is something about the quiet city at night that seems to expose my feelings of loneliness and death. As someone who has struggled with depression, I can say that nighttime is long and oppressive. It is a battle to survive until morning. And so, when the autumn wind sends a chill down my spine in Irving Circle Park I don't have time to remember that it's just the wind. I'm too busy having flash backs to all those nights when my only prayer was, "Lord, just let me make it to morning."

So maybe it is just the east wind. Or maybe it's Satan trying to convince me that I am alone and that God has left me for dead. When that happens - when I feel like I'm the only one left in the war - I remember the story of the valley of the dry bones from Ezekiel. You can read the whole thing here, but my favorite part is:
9Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' " 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
We were dead in our sin. But the God who saved us from death, gives us life. And we shall be raised up. And he will fight for us. The God who created the four winds will stop the lies that are spread in the whispers of the east wind. The God who suffered on the cross because he loved us will end our suffering. And the night shall be over; it will have no more power over us.

A Prayer For The Twenty-Third Day Of Lent
Lord, the wind whispers lies as we walk these dark streets. Our sin has roused us from our bed, and sent us into the night looking for solace. But there is no comfort alone in the dark. There are only lies - convincingly told - that seek to keep us from seeing the dawn. We throw ourselves on your mercy, and pray that you keep us safe until morning.

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer

-Ben Reed, March 15, 2010

"Mercy on the Dead"
You can listen to Nathan sing this song at his blog.

Weary from the hardened roads and rejected as a stranger,
No room to deliver Life for the mother of our savior,
Lonely, not but just a prayer to have strength to bear our Maker,
Struggling in the pains of birth hoping God would show his favor.

Oh have mercy on the dead!
Oh come breathe your breath out on this cold ground.
And where you find nothing left,
Raise up your children!

Dull ears and a broken cup was the people that you came to,
Thieves hiding inside your house where the dark could not perceive you,
No life and a withered branch was the garden that you came to,
Hail, coals and the cup of wrath, that you bore to make all things new.

Oh have mercy on the dead!
Oh come breathe your breath out on this cold ground.
And where you find nothing left,
Raise up your children!

The Holy One bends down to dust,
He speaks our name, He calls to us,
“Come out, My Child! You’re mine forever!”

Oh have mercy on the dead!
Oh come breathe your breath out on this cold ground.
And where you find nothing left,
Raise up your children!

1 I don't know if it really was an east wind, but I think east wind sounds good so I'm using it.

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