On my 15 hour trip across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, I finally had time to process Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. The lyrics to the new Matthew Perryman Jones song, "O Theo" have accompanied many of my night runs, but I hadn't realized they were so old. They date back to intimate correspondence between Van Gogh and his brother and one such letter inspired this especially earnest and confessional song. There's something magnetic about the words - something that pulls you in and makes you listen to what was painfully penned from a brother to a brother of a dreadful waywardness.
Under the silence of water, Into a sky full of birds Out from the land of our fathers, I am falling on your words, Oh...
Dark as the night of a preacher, I made a bed out of hay They paid me a handful of money, I gave it all away... All away...
And the righteous raised their stones And the devil threw his arrow That was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...
In the half-life of the city, She took off all of her clothes I flew from the height of the mountains Into a valley of dry bones All alone
Then my heart was still unknown I was drunk and full of sorrows I was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...
So, I set fires of starlight, To burn up against the despair I was caught in the tangles of midnight's Long, unanswered prayer: 'Are you there?'
And the light of morning grows On a field of fallen sparrows I was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...
Are you pulled in to Van Gogh's plea for a home? Does something deep inside turn over when you read about his waywardness?
Van Gogh describes his desperate and failed attempts to cure himself of loneliness. He reaches out and lays all things bare, longing for a home.
In a phone conversation the other night, I heard the same longing - a beautiful soul captured by grace who longed for the security of "home" without the fear of abandonment. I heard her confession of sin and her fragile hope of new life. I heard fear drip from every excuse as she listed reasons why now is a hard time to turn from sin.
And right there we called spades "spades." We agreed about her sin and the fear that made her cling to it. We agreed that her life looked like Jesus hadn't accomplished anything on the cross - that He wasn't capable of holding her up when her world crashed.
We agreed that Jesus wanted a complete turn from sin so that she could look Him fully in the face and hear the words, "Child, you are mine."
I remember sitting on my friend's porch a cool, August night in high school. I remember trying desperately to convince my friend that I had sin to deal with. I remember my friend saying, "That's it?"
We all get desperate and blinded by sin. The only hope of redemption we have is to believe that Christ willingly stood in the place of that sin (because it is sin) and continually sits at the right hand of God interceding for us, not that we would continue in sin but that we would enjoy the freedom that comes through repentance.
And it is with this honest, repentant heart that we do find a home that is secure.