A couple of weeks into this young year, I’ve finally finished a print that holds in it words that span the old and new years. The year that just ended on the calendar was a good one, a full one–but also one of the hardest for me yet. Beginning to figure out the new role of Mama, with all of its physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual demands, was challenging in ways I had not anticipated. I had not expected that simply getting an infant to feed might not come naturally. Nor had I expected the emotional toll that the effort would take. I also had not expected the difficulty of adjusting to the limitations of new rhythms (feed, change, sleep, repeat), nor how long it would take to change my expectations for what I might accomplish in one day.
Expectations. The word of the year. I hadn’t come to motherhood with particularly rosy ones (in fact, I’d thought myself rather pessimistic), but one by one my expectations of how life would be with Rowan, of my own competence as a mother–and as a wife, daughter, friend…–crumpled in the face of new challenges. And I found myself staring down my weaknesses, insecurities, and lack of control. So I cried. A lot. Though not always. There were moments at first, and later on, even seasons, where joy flared out and where life seemed to flow smoothly enough. But then the rains–tears of frustration and felt inadequacy–would return, sometimes accompanying a new challenge, or sometimes simply following an unguarded moment of exhaustion. In those moments, it was difficult for me to see little besides the rain, much less a way out.
About three-quarters of the way into that year, Andrew Peterson’s song, “Rain Keeps Falling,” was released (on his record The Burning Edge of Dawn)**. In it, he revisits a recent dark bout of depression that he struggled with:
I tried to be brave but I hid in the dark
I sat in that cave and I prayed for a spark
To light up all the pain that remained in my heart
And the rain kept falling
Down on the roof of the church where I cried
I could hear all the laughter and love and I tried
To get up and get out but a part of me died
And the rain kept falling down
The song continues recounting this season, moving from outer darkness to the inner stormy depths of insecurity and fear until one phrase breaks in like a calm, clear beam of light:
Peace. Be still.
The vocals are measured, yet tender, representing the authority and love of the Holy Spirit as he speaks to Peterson’s heart just what Jesus spoke to a stormy lake in Galilee,
Peace. Be still.
In response, the song’s tone changes, a different image of falling rain taking the place of the preceding stormy lyrics.
My daughter and I put the seeds in the dirt
And every day now we’ve been watching the earth
For a sign that this death will give way to a birth
And the rain keeps falling.
But the song doesn’t simply end here, neatly tied together with a resolving image of hope. It ends with a litany of petitions, confessions, and doubts, which are each answered again and again by the Voice:
Peace. Be still.
I am thankful that it ends this way, for that is true of my experience in the last year. I, too, have heard the Spirit’s injunction to peace and rest–through this song, through the people God has placed in my life as enactors of His grace. I have also glimpsed a purpose for the rain, seen some of the growth which is beginning as a result. However, though the year may have closed on the calendar, and though I may speak of adjusting to motherhood as a past event, the process of breaking and renewal brought into my life by becoming a mama continues. And so I need the reminder, again and again, to recognize that the Holy Spirit’s voice in answer to my questions, doubts, and attempts to grasp hold of hope, is not saying “Work harder, believe better,” but,