Nothing Is Wasted

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.

Nothing is Wasted: Redux

Over a year ago, I posted the lyrics to Jason Gray’s song “Nothing is Wasted” on this blog. I wrote:

This has become a theme of my week – not because I’m going through anything particular, but simply the truth of it – and its applicability to past and future events. Its been, for lack of a more somber word, “refreshing” to remember that Christ redeems sorrow and pain.

Little did I know that the less than a month later I would be listening to the song, tears streaming down my face, holding tightly to the truths of its words the evening after I sat in the ICU  knowing my friend and mentor in the bed was gone from this earth for ever.

Little did I know that I would turn back to it again and again and again in the past year and a half as life has been wracked with sorrow and loss.

Jason Gray tells the story of choosing “Nothing Is Wasted” as the new single off his album A Way to See in the Dark in a new post at The Rabbit Room. It’s a story of how God worked in the hearts of a group of people to point them to use this song rather than another because they knew it was the song people needed to hear most. Like He knew I needed to discover it in late October 2011, when I wasn’t going through anything hard, but just before the onslaught.

Go read the story. Listen to the song.

Know that in the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted.

Starry Nite

The evening’s activities put me in mind of the event a year earlier. The tone both similar and worlds apart – a celebration of the start of the Christmas season, but this year without the aching heart and scratchy eyes of the day’s grief. As I walked away, the voices, amplified by microphones, echoed off the trees, the strains of the violin soaring above them.

I walked toward my car, alone in the deserted lot at the far end of campus. The tenor, the alto, and the violin together, haunting echoes of the originals, rode the chilly, crisp air: “O night, O Holy night, O night divine!”

And alone, I wept at the beauty of it all, that the Conqueror came in peace1, on a quiet, holy night, to be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; to take upon Himself the chastisement that brought us peace, to turn our sorrow into joy and our mourning into dancing. The power of Death was undone by an Infant born of glory2.

1 Jason Gray. “Easier.” Christmas Stories: Repeat the Sounding Joy.
2 Andrew Peterson. “Gather ‘Round Ye Children, Come.” Behold the Lamb of God.

Nothing is Wasted

This has become a theme of my week – not because I’m going through anything particular, but simply the truth of it – and its applicability to past and future events. Its been, for lack of a more somber word, “refreshing” to remember that Christ redeems sorrow and pain.

The hurt that broke your heart
Left you trembling in the dark
Feeling lost and alone
Will tell you hope’s a lie
But what if every tear you cry
Will seed the ground
Where joy will grow?

Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted.
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted.

The wound that leaves a scar
Becomes a part of who we are,
But this is not the story’s end.
The pain that closed the chapter
Sets the stage for what comes after
When all we’ve lost is found again.

Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted.
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted.

When hope is more than you can bear,
And it’s too hard to believe it could be true,
And your strength fails you half way there,
You can lean on me and I’ll believe for you,
And in time you will believe it too.

Nothing is wasted.
Nothing is wasted.
Sometimes we are waiting
In sorrow we have tasted,
But joy will replace it
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted.

Jason Gray, “Nothing is Wasted (Alternate)”