in the dark. surrounded by trees.

an analogy. no. an allegory.

When I first began recording, the studio I sang in was separated from its control booth. The doors to each room were around a corner from each other and there was no window between the sound studio and the control booth, like you often see on TV. I was completely separated from people – physically, visually and audibly.

It was a little weird, especially because there were long minutes of silence between takes while the guys in the control booth were talking to each other and I couldn’t hear them – or see them.

It was also very, very cold in that room. I remember bringing a jacket and a scarf, even in the spring and summer. I would tuck my fists in my pockets and wrap the scarf around my face because my fingers and my nose would get so cold.

But the weirdest thing about that studio was that the lights were on a motion sensor. After about 15 minutes, the lights would automatically turn off and I would be left in the dark.

pitch dark. There were no windows, remember?

Even more challenging was the fact that I was surrounded by what the sound guys called “trees.” They were actually big fat, foam-like tubes on stick-like stands. I’m not sure exactly why they needed to surround me the way they did – I’m sure it was to enhance the sound and create a “sweet spot” in some way – but the bottom line is that when the lights went out, it was a challenge for me to find my way past the trees and move into the motion sensor’s line of sight to activate the lights again.

The recording sessions were about 3 and a half hours long and, tucked in the middle of the microphone (with all its accoutrements) and these giant trees, there was no place to sit down. At the end of the session, I was tired. I was tired from the singing and I was tired from the standing.

If you’ve read my last “four minutes with God” post, you may already know where I’m going with this. (if you haven’t, go ahead and click the previous link and catch up, I’ll wait. really, go ahead, it makes the rest of this post less confusing)

For a few weeks now, spiritually, I’ve been in the dark. surrounded by trees.

But here’s the thing. When I was in that studio and the lights went out during a take, I didn’t stop singing. I kept going. It didn’t matter that I was in the dark. I knew what I was supposed to be doing whether I could see or not. I didn’t really even need to see the lyrics sheet because I knew the song by heart.

I actually found that I sounded better when I couldn’t see, if you can believe that. The darkness meant there were less distractions.

Singing in the dark helped me focus on what was important while allowing me to abandon myself to God’s leading – at the same time.

Disconcerting at first, but as I grew more dependent on the instincts I believe God provided for me, instead of the tangible, visible microphone, the lyric sheet with its numbered lines, the headphones with the cord that kept overlapping my right arm, the line of masking tape on the floor to mark where I should stand…

I realized I didn’t need all those assurances. They were tiny, irrelevant markers of proof for what I confidently knew:

– the microphone was working and there were people in the sound booth who could hear me
– they were taking the work I was doing and making it even better.
– I didn’t need lyrics if I knew the words by heart.
– it might be cold, but it was temporary and I was equipped for it.
– yeah, I would get tired, but nothing beyond what I could handle and I could rest later, after my work was finished.
– if I started out standing in the right place and didn’t absently step away, I would stay in the center of the sweet spot.

All of that led me to an even greater assurance: that I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing, when I was supposed to be doing it and that I was being equipped by someone far more able to help me than all those other things.

When the lights were on, it never occurred to me to abandon all the markers I could see and depend wholly on an “invisible God” as Philip Yancey calls him.

Lord, thank you for reminding me of this experience in my life and showing me how it relates to the lessons you’re teaching me right now:

– You are with me whether I can see You or not.

– I can depend on You whether or not you provide me with easily recognizable assurances or ask me to trust You as You lead me through the dark for a while.

– I’m going to keep singing, knowing You can still hear me and knowing that you’ll show me what I need to see, when I need to see it.


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.

Your insights are welcome! (profanity and sarcasm, not so much)

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