It was almost November, nearly six years ago. The glory that is October in Philadelphia had spent itself and we were in the grey days of late autumn, when the remaining leaves are matted along the curbs, waffling between slimy decomposition and brittle trash gatherers depending on the weather.
The CD player in my car still still worked back then and I’d burned a copy of the special edition of Jason Gray’s new album, A Way to See in the Dark, so I could listen as I drove. My tires turned over the familiar concrete and asphalt of 413 between home and work and work and home and I heard it for the first time: “Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. In the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted.” I wrote out the lyrics of the song on my blog and said to a friend, “I don’t need it right now, but I know I have in the past and I know I will again.”
One month later I lay on my bed listening to the song as tears made their paths down my cheeks. I’d just returned from the ICU where a dear friend, hit by a car, lay in a bed from which he would never rise. It was the start of my year of hell and the beginning of a fog of tragedy and brokenness which would only begin to lift eleven months later as I made my way for the first time to the gathering of the community which introduced me to Jason Gray—The Rabbit Room.
On the airplane flying to Nashville, I read these words in N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: “The coffin can be a tragedy, but not for long. There will be butterflies.” A healing from the hell year began that day. At that Hutchmoot—my first—I met people who changed my life. I heard stories that reignited my imagination, and I made a decision that I would come back, resident nomad that I was. I had found a home.
On Sunday afternoon of Hutchmoot 2017, Jason Gray took to the stage to sing “Nothing Is Wasted” as part of a liturgical journey in which we moved from fear to grief to hope to service to community to work to praise.
I had spoken on lament just a few days earlier and talked about the turn in it—from remembrance of pain to remembrance of God’s faithfulness. From the dirge to the second line. From sorrow to joy. From grief to hope.
It was the very turn I experienced a year after I heard Jason’s song for the very first time. The turn that altered my life’s path and opened new avenues for relationship, community, creativity, fulfillment, joy. It was the turn that moved me to a new place. It was the turn of my life, the pivot, that set me where I stand today.
And Jason sang just at the moment the liturgy turned from grief to hope: “From the ruins, From the ashes, beauty will rise. From the wreckage, from the darkness, glory will shine.”
And I stood in the ICU, over the bed of my friend who I could see was already gone. I got the phone call that my boss had died, just three weeks after the cancer diagnosis. I watched my professor’s mind taken from him by the brain tumor. I read the vicious responses to change that I had to sift through every day at work during that year. I walked again through those months of the year of hell that I can barely remember and I saw that ruins, ashes, and brokenness are the seedbed for beauty—for we have One who redeems all things and in His hands nothing is wasted.