Finding Freedom In The Father’s Loving Restraint
“I’m not gonna miss the way you tore me asunder.”
I was at my lowest. In a desert, physically and spiritually. I had been striving for years to be a successful musician, pastor’s wife, worship leader, and mom. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I was running on empty, full-speed toward a giant wall.
Shortly after our second daughter was born and we became church planters, I was hit with chronic, severe fatigue and crippling pain that doctors couldn’t explain or fix. I felt enormous pressures from every angle, yet I was unable to heal myself or change my circumstances. I plunged into bouts of anxiety and wrestled with doubt and depression. I was angry at my own weakness, and at God. He was showing me my frailty and fallibility. He was stripping away my idols of comfort and control, and it was painful on many levels.
It was in that season of suffering, in that low place, that the Lord was patiently working in my heart to confront the pride that was at the root of so much of my striving. God was not punishing me in allowing my suffering, but was setting me free. I was trying so hard to earn His acceptance by “being enough” and “doing enough.” In coming to the end of myself, He was reminding me that His “grace is sufficient” and His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8-10). The Lord bringing me to a low place was a Fatherly act of loving restraint.
As a songwriter, I’ve spent a lot of creative energy wrestling with this idea, and found parallels to it, and inspiration for my song Torn Asunder, in the story of Jacob. That rascal-rebel grappled with God in the desert and would not let him go until God finally wounded him, then blessed him. He was given a new name, Israel, but walked away with a limp; a forever reminder of how the Lord brought him low to bless him.
Torn Asunder begins as a confrontation of sorts; a response to suffering. I didn’t shy away from writing with honesty and strong language from a place of questioning God’s purpose and feeling indignation at my weakness and brokenness.
“I’m not gonna let this go/ you will have to wrestle me down before I do / I’m not gonna sleep through this tonight…”
I’ve found comfort in the Psalms that freely express sorrow, longing, and frustration, often with strong language (Psalm 13, 42, 55, 88, to name a few). They remind me that I am not condemned for having doubts, nor am I scorned for grieving and crying out to God. The Lord welcomes our honest prayers, and gently answers as He convicts our hearts and calls us to trust Him more deeply.
That’s what we see beginning to happen in the second verse and chorus of the song, as things shift more towards self-examination and confession (1 Cor. 11:28):
“I used to believe that all I had to do was hold a bullet down/ Take a hit, push it back, and make-believe…/ I’m not gonna miss the way you tore me asunder/ I’m not gonna mince these words, cut my teeth on the candor/ This is my new name / This is a new day/ ”
This confession softens, both lyrically and musically, as we get to the bridge. A gentle, rhythmic pattern and simple melody, coupled with the prayer-like lyric, sets a tone of surrender:
“I will lay my head on a stone, you will fill me with dreams, with promises/
I will climb into your arms, fall into your love, like a child, like a child, like a child…”
In the second pre-chorus of my song, if you listen closely, you’ll hear the voices of my own daughters doubling my vocal, reminding the listener of the relationship we have with God as his children.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12)
In Jacob’s story, we could interpret God’s posture of wrestling with Jacob in two ways: One, as a parent might “wrestle” with a willful child who needs restraint from his own foolishness (through discipline or setting boundaries), but secondly, as a Father who fights for his ultimate good by embracing and protecting.
I work out this idea toward the end of song with the repetition of the lines, “Hold me down, hold me/ Hold me down, hold me.” This moment, sung almost breathlessly, is reminiscent of the way we often fight restraint and boundaries, yet simultaneously crave the protection of that paternal embrace.
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm36:7)
The song finishes with a heart-thumping crescendo that suddenly lifts off into a moment of weightlessness, leaving the listener with a sense of hope-filled surrender.
Through much prayer, counseling, and medical care, my journey with chronic illness has been one of healing, both spiritually and physically. Like Jacob, I carry the scars of lessons learned as wound-blessings, reminding me that He is one who will not let me go. He will not let His children run full force into self-destruction. Even when we come at him brazenly with doubts and rebellious hearts as Jacob did, God remains sovereign and patient with us. Even in our struggling and striving, rather than shaming or punishing us into submission, God pulls us into a the loving embrace of a Father. His wounds are the blessing that we need to humble us into His perfect peace and rest in the finished work of Christ.
“Therefore I will boast more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Listen to “Torn Asunder” Here