It’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve heard this quote multiple times in my life, and while I’m not sure that it is accurate scientifically, I have found it to be both compelling and encouraging. Its suggestion is that no matter how dark it gets; the promise of light awaits to meet us. 

Dawn represents a moment of tension in its rawest form. The image of darkness dissipating at the glimpse of light screams to me of hope and the promise of new beginnings.

I want to share a part of my story with you today that speaks into the anticipation of dawn.
I share this with a degree of vulnerability and nervousness, because there is an unavoidable truth that by sharing, parts of my own failing and brokenness are thrust into the light.
I count this as a risk worth taking if in some way, it allows me to join you on your own journey and to remind you that you are not alone.

Before I continue, I want to profess that I am not a mental health expert, and I don’t want to pretend to be. I simply believe that community and stories are important, and I hope that mine can encourage you.

When I left the church back in 2017, I never anticipated the effect that such a change would have on my mental wellbeing. This was partly caused by the sense of confusion and grief that I was experiencing given the circumstances that led to my departure. I’ve unpacked this with a degree of depth in my previous blogs.
In addition to these stresses there was another huge aspect that contributed to my mental anxiety. This was my sudden reckoning with the breakdown of my spiritual identity.

I think identity is hugely important. The way we define ourselves affects the way that we live and respond on almost every level. If you’ve been following us on our journey through the shadowlands, you would have heard us mention identity before. It’s a topic that we will likely touch on as we unpack most of our songs. The reason for this is because our identity is intrinsically woven into the fabric of who we are as people. Our identity is shaped by our culture, our beliefs and the people around us. When these things change dramatically, as humans, we are forced to reconcile with the differences caused by such changes.

For me, I walked away from a spiritual structure that I was highly dependent on. The ramifications of this were an unravelling of the things that made up my identity.

Our song ‘Dawn’ was written in the early hours of the morning, during a period in my life when sleep was scarce, and anxiety plagued my mind. It is a song about trying to find perspective, and in turn, hope amidst the undoing of what I had known and built my life upon.

“Dawn, I’m wide awake. My thoughts are troubling. I don’t know if time is on my side” …

I vividly remember lying awake listening to my wife breathing as she slept next to me. My mind was a mess, and I was unable to turn it off. I remember this season of my life being particularly difficult. As the evenings would arrive, I would be filled with dread knowing that I would soon be losing any hope of distraction. The sun would disappear along with a degree of my sanity, and I would find myself mentally spiralling again. In the lonely hours I would find myself praying for dawn.

I remember one of these sleepless nights more than any other. Around midnight, I got out of bed, took my guitar and sat down in my loungeroom. The room was dark and still. I interrupted the silence, softy plucking my guitar strings and for perhaps the first time, I began to lament.

I’ve always loved that music can create a space where the expression of the deep things in one’s soul can find a way to rise to the surface. Admittedly, I’m not sure that I’d ever used it to intentionally grieve and direct my angst to God.

Prior to that evening, I think part of me felt I needed to be able to present any ‘issues’ that I had with God in a partly solved, politely packaged prayer. I always felt the need to be able to internalise a resolve before I turned to God for advice or direction and yet here, I found myself unwell, with no care for spiritual etiquette and desperately looking for answers.

I was so dissatisfied and heartbroken with my church experience and particularly with how it had ended. The church does a lot of good things, and I truly believe that. She sadly also causes so much damage. I couldn’t understand how something that was meant to reflect the very identity of Jesus was being so poorly demonstrated. Instead of building the kingdom of God, I’d witnessed a small church implode because of disunity. As I wrestled with this, I wondered if God was in it. Was He interested? Had He left in disgust as He watched His children toil and tear each other apart?

I remember singing these words as I tried to grapple with my questions…

Maybe He left the church, when we built up our walls
Maybe He’s left our buildings and our alter calls
Maybe He’s in the dark, in the deepest of holes
Maybe we’ll find God when we lose ourselves

There was probably more to this song and although I can’t recall it all, I remember these words and the sentiment of them. What cuts deeper then these words, however, was the unexpected response I received as I sat in silence pondering them.

A calm and assured, somehow inaudible voice spoke to my soul.
“Callum, I could never leave the church. I came for my church”

“Between the chaos and the certainty, is where perspective is refined” …

Life is a journey where you and I are constantly changing, learning and being refined. Perspective is an incredibly important and valuable thing.

In that moment, as God spoke to me on the couch, something shifted with my perspective.
Please understand that I’m not saying that when God speaks, life becomes instantly easier, and all our troubles somehow dissipate. In fact, I think a life surrendered to God probably offers the opposite.
My anxiety did not suddenly disappear. My questions were not all immediately answered. In fact, I garnered more in the wake of this experience.
What I learned from this significant moment is that God desires nothing more than to know us and to pursue us, no matter how broken we may be or feel.
This has become my certainty.

Chaos is all around us. It wears the mask of our circumstances, of our trials, of our temptations and every other bit of noise that beckons for our attention. Between all these things and the certainty that is God, is a tension that invites us to live life and to pursue wholeness in it.

The story I’ve shared with you was a significant moment for me. I don’t want to over spiritualise it, or make it sound weird and mystic. In a beautiful way it was both momentous and very simple. It shifted my perspective. It altered my path.
I did not want to hide away and succumb to the pressures that were the cause for my mental decline. I wanted to be able to move forward and I did so, very slowly.

Dawn breathes the tension between night and day. She offers the hope of another chance to learn and grow and breathe.
She offers light and an escape from the darkness. Dawn beckons us to rise again to wrestle again and to rest again.

My friend, I’m grateful you are here. If you struggle with anxiety or are feeling overwhelmed by life and the very real difficulties that may have met you on your journey, please know that you are not alone. I’ve been there and I both feel and remember your pain.

God is in the dark to walk with you in this journey. He will bring you through.
He came for His church – for people. He is for people like you and me and He offers wholeness and certainty where there is chaos and unknown. Be assured that chaos and certainty can co-exist, and God occupies the space of both.

You don’t need to hide away. Keep moving