“We Awake In the Night in the Womb of the World”

The above title is the first line in the refrain of Andrew Peterson’s “Come Back Soon.” On Sunday my old and dear friend Dean Barham, in his morning sermon at Woodmont Hills, alerted me to Peterson’s music and particularly this line. It has stuck with me for a few days now.

Yesterday I read Keith Brenton’s funeral eulogy for his wife. He has decided with faith and courage to grieve with hope. I grieved with my friend, prayed for his family, and protested her death.

April 30 to May 22 has become a season of lament for me. April 30th is the anniversary of my first wife’s death (Sheila), May 10 is my deceased father’s birthday, May 21 is the anniversary of the death of my son (Joshua), and May 22 is the anniversary of my first marriage. In the last five years my emotions during this time have been particularly evident to me as I have attempted to face my grief.

But I recognize that my lament is only a small part of the larger dimensions of sorrow within the world. The Psalms evidence this range of lament–lament for evil and injustice and lament over our own sins as well as lament over disease and death. It is not only the lament of an individual but the lament of communities, ethnicities, nations, and, indeed, the whole world.

We all “awake in the night.” At some point we all lose our innocence, and we realize the world is often a dark, lonely, and broken place. “Every death,” Peterson sings, “is a question mark.”

“We awake in the night,” and the refrain continues,

We beat our fists on the door
We cannot breathe in this sea that swirls
So we groan in this great darkness
For deliverance
Deliverance, O Lord.

Peterson’s language evokes Biblical images of chaos (sea and darkness) against which humanity protests (fists). “We awake in the night” when we lose our innocence and experience creation’s chaos.

Existentially, I had my awakening on April 30, 1980. I’ve had several since then as well–some due to tragedy, some due to my own sin and brokenness. But the groan remains the same….”we groan in the darkness” and we cry “for deliverance.” “So,” Peterson sings, “we kick in the womb and we beg to be born.”

We beg to be born. It is “in the womb of the world” where we awake, where we beg, where we groan. We cry for this broken creation to give birth to a new one.

The last song, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone For This,” on the CD (“Light for the Lost Boy”) brings this yearning to a climax.

There is lament. “Can’t you feel it in your bones, something isn’t right here.”

But there is also joy. The sun comes up every morning, Spring follows Winter, and “beauty abounds.”

There is awakening. Though it is in the night, it is in the womb. Though we cry “How long?” we also pray “Come back soon.” And “when the world is new again,” then the children of the King will sing on, and their mourning will be turned to dancing.

“Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Come back soon!”

4 Responses to ““We Awake In the Night in the Womb of the World””

  1.   Teresa Stephens Says:

    AMEN!! Thank you, John Mark.

  2.   David W Fletcher Says:

    Well said, my brother, well said . . . alas, we all must suffer, some more, some less, we all must walk the path to death. But with each step, there is hope for redemption, for renewal, for rebirth . . . The sun shines brightest right at daybreak, and then it’s cold . . . but the warmth of God’s blessing intensifies . . .

  3.   Darrell Ray Says:

    I saw this post a week or so ago, and I was intrigued by the lyric you quoted. I downloaded the album and I have listened to it numerous times since then, reading, no, savoring the lyrics and marveling at the complexity and beauty of the writing. The album’s theme of lost innocence, one moment displaying the defiance of youth, another describing the mixed emotions of watching a child grow up and make mistakes and make his way in the world–these are so artfully done while maintaining a sense of reverence and place, that we are here in an imperfect world seeking the perfection of the world to come. When we find ourselves lost, we can follow those old roads back home. It is hard to define the combination of ache and hope, longing and optimism, pain and joy that Andrew captured in these songs. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Leave a Reply