For a long time, I’ve wrestled with the benefit of sharing this story. I want to tread delicately as I navigate the tension of this topic, recognising that I am a human being that is broken without all the answers. Over the last few years, as I’ve talked to others and listened, I’ve come to realise that I am one of a multitude of people that have found themselves asking very real and challenging questions as a result of the failures that can be found in organised religion. To that end, I want to share some of my thoughts and my story with you.

My hope is that my story may serve as a reminder that you are not alone. Perhaps you are feeling lost and disillusioned by the church, religion or even feeling let down by important people in your life. This song was birthed out of my wrestling with these things.

If you are following on from my previous blog, you will know that I grew up in a local church community. My family lived on the premises and as a pastor’s child, I was heavily involved in most facets of church life. For the better part of twenty something years, I have beautiful memories of friends, family and a community that genuinely aimed to love others well. It was a special place to grow up and as I reflect on it, I count myself fortunate to have known and been a part of so many amazing people’s lives.

Unfortunately, towards the end of my time with this community, somewhere along the way the wheels started falling off.

It is not my responsibility, nor my intent to point fingers and lay blame on others for the issues and dramas that played out at my church and within my home. Neither is it my desire to paint a negative view of the church at large. The sad reality is that she does enough damage for herself because she is made up of people and all people are broken. 

Without divulging or dwelling on the flaws of others, allow me to give you a brief insight into some of the murkier details for some context.

Behind closed doors, there were some very real leadership failures and fractures that caused division in the church. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, and the local church that I was a part of had a leadership team that became divided. There were many reasons for this and many underlying issues but at the heart of it was disunity, mistrust and eventually mismanagement.

There were lots of small intricacies and details that I found myself caught up in as a result of these things. The details do not need to be unpacked.

What does matter is that what was meant to be a beautiful reflection of the kingdom and community of God became a very shattered, messy expression of religion.

Stories like this are not uncommon in local churches and I imagine there’s a high chance that if you have been involved in a spiritual community, or any community for that matter, that you have potentially experienced something similar before.

The tragedy surrounding these sorts of circumstances is the way that community and relationships can be decimated. As people, we yearn to belong and are designed to live in community where trust, relationships and accountability exist. When these things are gone, people can become displaced, lost and alone.

The song Bronze Wings represents a time when I could not see or feel resolve. As track two from the album, it doesn’t necessarily have any great resolution. It intentionally speaks to a moment where bitterness, frustration and angst were consuming me.

And these wings they are heavy. These nights they are long, and I want to be better and not clouded by bronze”.

When I talk about my wings, I’m referring to the baggage that I carried in the years following my departure from my local church and home. As I reflect on these times, I can’t help but remember feeling an overwhelming sense of loss and grief. I also remember feeling desperately alone. The mentors I had in my life were gone, my family was just as broken as I was, and I felt like I had no one to help me to navigate through the turmoil of my mind and heart.

For years, I toiled with my thoughts, trying to make sense of the reason behind the loss and the mess. I wanted to be able to say I was over it. I wanted to be able to move on, beyond the point of feeling let down and betrayed but as time went on, I became more and more resentful. I wanted to be healthy and to be able to move forward but no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t seem to get there.

As the war in my mind continued to rage it became clear over time that I was fighting a losing battle. Given the spiritual nature of the circumstances surrounding my story, in my displacement I found myself struggling with many things. The fundamental basics of my faith had been rocked and I was questioning the purpose of church and its merit. I was also wrestling with my spiritual identity and with what faith and ‘being a christian’ was meant to be.

I’m not going to attempt to answer or articulate where I’ve landed with these questions in a single blog. Part of the purpose in releasing this album track by track is so that we can properly unpack and explore some of these things. Instead, today I want to focus on another aspect that I found deeply confronting at this stage in my journey and this was the issue of bitterness.

Bitterness is a poison that consumes and ultimately ruins you. I know this, because for years I allowed it to ruin me. I harboured it against those that had hurt me and over time, it ate away at my soul, and it robbed me of joy to the point where I felt consistently numb.

In the moment that this song represents, I had not come to the revelation that the same grace that was afforded to me by my creator, was enough to enable me to forgive others.

By holding onto hurt and offence in my own heart I was causing increasing harm to myself.

The teachings of Jesus can seem ridiculously counter cultural and yet I seem to find freedom in them when nothing else prevails. Instinctively my response to pain and hurt was to isolate and to put up walls to protect myself. Within these walls, like a wound untreated, my offence festered, and I became bitter and crippled.

“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness” 1 John 2:9

This is a hard truth to swallow, but it sums me up as a bitter young man that was stuck and unable to move forward. I knew I wanted to be free, but I couldn’t put down my wings and move towards the light, because I was harbouring darkness within myself.

When at last I was able to surrender my bitterness, I found freedom.

It’s worth mentioning that the loosening of my grip and surrendering my bitterness was a gradual and sometimes daily process for a while. If freedom is truth, sometimes we need to be realigned again and again until finally we are tethered to it.

I do not want to make light of your shadowlands experience or the seriousness of the offences that some of you may have faced and carried in your life. We live in a tragic and broken world.

In writing this, I am driven by an awareness of how alone I felt as I made this journey. With that in mind, I want to offer some hope to you in your own circumstance.

God is in the shadows where He is needed most. God is in the dark when that darkness takes on the form of bitterness and resentment. He embraces us in our need to be saved from others and from ourselves.

There is a road to freedom from a clouded mind and you do not have to walk that road alone.

Forgiveness is a powerful gift. Grace is the strength that allows us to walk in it. These truths are not exclusively for the religious or the churched. They are for the human.

Where there are people, there is brokenness. Where there is brokenness, the pursuit of wholeness becomes a fight worth fighting for.

My friend, keep your head up and keep moving forward. There will come a day when you can leave your wings behind.

Freedom awaits us all.