The Secret Chamber and the Afterglow

By

I’m in my bunk on the tour bus, which is in some ways like a coffin, in other ways like a berth on a ship.  Some nights it feels more like a bunk bed at a sleep over with a bunch of friends, only your friends have whiskers and wives at home.  To my left is a curtain that opens onto a little hallway of other drawn curtains where the other members of the tour are probably sleeping now.  To my right is a book by Mark Helprin (one of the finest writers I’ve ever read) called Winter’s Tale.  I’ve been reading it for six months or so and just can’t seem to finish it–not because it’s not good, but because it is.  I don’t want it to end.  Beside that is a book of poetry called Nine Horses by Billy Collins (which I highly recommend, especially if you’re like me and you don’t usually like poetry).

Let’s see, what else?  A pair of dirty socks, my backpack, my cell phone, and a framed picture of a fourth grade class.  The picture was a gift from a school teacher at our show in Charlotte.  She gave each of her students a copy of one of my albums to coincide with a series of lessons and took a picture of the kids for me.

So now you know what it’s like in my secret chamber.  Oh, I should probably also mention that it’s 3:31 am.

This morning, with David Mead’s song “Nashville” rolling down the road of my brain, I crawled out of my bunk and lifted the blinds to see the fine sight of my hometown, draped in fog.  The Ryman Auditorium is a red brick beauty, a 118-year-old building kneeling among the skyscrapers in a kind of stately humility.  It is a place that is thick with history both American and musical, and the spirits in its halls sing of the precious intersection of Place and Time.

In minutes the bus door flew open and my three kids barreled in to deliver hugs, kisses on the cheek, and a hundred questions at once.  Jamie and I took the kids back home so we could sign some papers, start the laundry, and rush out the door to meet my parents for lunch once their plane landed.  We ate at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, whose burgers are my current favorite.  We talked about home and my dad’s ministry and the fact that I had just gotten word that the Ryman was close to selling out.  I wiped the grease from my fingers, bade my family farewell for the afternoon, and headed back to the Ryman for soundcheck.

This is my favorite part of the day, I think.  I saw friend after friend arrive at that grand ole concert hall with their instruments slung over their shoulders: Pierce Pettis and his guitar, Ron Block and his banjo, Michael Card and his bouzouki, Stuart Duncan and his fiddle.  In walked Marcus, the violinist who helped me find the melody for “Deliver Us” nine years ago, Andrew, my boys’ old violin teacher, Randall Goodgame with his gentle grin, Kurt and his daughter.  Then the rest of the band trickled in: Gabe, Garett, Ben, the Brothers Henry, Gullahorn, Cason,  Biggs, Osenga, Jill, Bebo, Todd–all of them bearers of the Spirit and willing to use their gifts in this way for the sake of the Kingdom.  I love bouncing from place to place, checking in on the little clusters of conversation to be sure everyone has what they need and knows where they need to be.  I hear snippets of laughter and sincerity everywhere I turn.  There’s an outpouring of goodwill and patience and service that astounds me.  Every year, it astounds me.  And I can only think that the reason for this goodness is the Gospel about which we have gathered to sing.

That Gospel draws us like the call of a jubilant voice deep in the woods.  We hear, and we follow, and though we scarcely know how we know, we believe the source of the voice is good and the only thing worth knowing.  All at once, we emerge from all sides in a clearing.  We are cut by thorns and weary to the bone.  In the center of the clearing swirls a warm, symphonic light within which glows–depending on the tilt of the head–a patient eye, or an open hand, or the slender form of a man with his hands on his hips, laughing.  And you know that it’s Him.  Then the skill in your fingers, the ache in your heart, the talent in your soul–all of it–strains to do His work.  It strains like a warhorse pawing the ground in the moments before the charge.

Then comes the downbeat, and the crowd falls silent as the story is told.

After the show, after the pictures are taken and the thank-yous are spoken, Jamie and I escape to the nearest Waffle House.  It’s a tradition.  We sit in a booth and decompress over a plate of bad/good food.  We pray before we eat and speak quietly so the people in the next booth won’t eavesdrop.  Now that I think of it, this is my favorite part of the day.  And it’s because of the company, not the food–honest.  Near midnight, my bride dropped me off at the bus for the last three shows of the tour, and she went home to the Warren where our children and my parents are sleeping.

I am grateful for precious days like this one, when light, love, and music make it that much easier to believe that there is a God in whose heart lies a secret chamber for each of us, where there is rest and comfort and safety.  In our Father’s house there are many rooms.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Profile photo of Andrew Peterson

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


25 Comments

  1. Andrew C

    Thanks, Andrew. This is beautiful. I am constantly astounded at how God overwhelms us by interacting with us in such profound yet inexplicable ways. As one of my family members said to me: His voice through all our experiences, relationships and circumstances is overwhelming. The He sings His love and the richness of His life through everything. We just need growing sensitivity each day to recognize Him, to pick out the harmonies He is creating through everything.

    Thanks for sharing some of your setting. Such a community brings richness and depth that cannot be explained to life.

  2. Chris

    Very much looking forward to seeing the show in Montague tomorrow night and hearing the “old old story”. We’re getting about 12 inches of snow here in West Michigan today, so drive safe my friends and see you tomorrow.

  3. John S.

    We are one body made of many members, and while we each have our own place, I am glad that you, Andrew, are part of the voice.

  4. brandi

    Last night’s show was so fantastic. This was our sixth time attending, and it never fails to move me and get me all teary. You’d think I could manage myself since I know what’s coming. 🙂 Thanks to all of you for putting this together and performing it every year. It’s my favorite Christmas tradition.

  5. Lauren J

    last night’s show really was fantastic! last time i made to nashville for this concert was 2003, and it changed my life because it renewed my joy in christmas. it’s easy to lose the sense of wonder and mystery that the incarnation should elicit from us when you’ve grown up in the church, and it makes it harder to truly celebrate what God has done. BTLOG restored all of that to me, which makes sense, since i am a story person. 🙂

    thank you, andy, and thank you all for this gift.

  6. Ryan Boomershine

    Four friends – two couples – just read this aloud together and we smiled broad happy, warm smiles.. You have a wonderful gift for story, Andrew. And thank you for a wonderful concert last night.

    God keep you.

  7. Debbie

    I was invited to the show in Charlotte, and having no idea of what I was in for was completely blown away. I want to buy a cd for everyone on my list. Any chance I can get them for Christmas if ordered today? Thanks for coming to our part of the world, you made me remember what Christmas is about.

  8. Mike

    For a few moments I could almost feel the unity that must have been in that room and I long for it. Its not the music. The music is the breath that can only come from true Life. I hope you folks realize that what you have us unlike any out there. The is a heaviness in the music like the last fifty miles home, yet there is a lightness like lying in my bed when I get there. I don’t know if what we feel when we experience it is the same thing that you experience when you play it but I know there’s Truth in it. Its a Truth that gets deep beyond this thing that we have made Christmas to be.

    I hope you folks know how you are messing us up!

    Thanks AP

    Mike

  9. Katherine

    This is a show my husband and I have wanted to see for years. A series of events starting last February allowed us to slowly make our way to Nashville from southern California over the last ten months. And somehow we found ourselves in the second row. I can only think of one other time I felt such a profound glimpse of Heaven, where the distance between God and his people felt so diminished. It was an awesome balance, reminding us we are strangers here with a work to do, and letting us rest together. Like a kiss on the forehead.
    Thank you, to everyone who worked on and in this show.

  10. Jennifer

    This is what I wanted to come to..the show at the Ryman..for my 30th b’day..but we couldn’t work it out…
    Maybe sometime down the road.
    Thanks for sharing..Beautiful

  11. jeremy

    andrew, saw the concert the other night in charlotte…every year, this group of artists helps me remember the beauty of the gospel caught up in the flesh and bones of a babe…and now i am at work in the neonatal intensive care unit (surrounded by other little babes) and can’t help but think of our baby saviour–thanks to you and all the artists that carry the tune that called this heart into the “clearing” where i found him waiting. peace of Christ to you. merry christmas.

  12. Nathaniel Miller

    I saw the show in Charlotte after waking up at 4:00am, working hard through the day, and driving 2.5 hours from Raleigh to Charlotte to see it, much like I did last year. I was wondering if it were really worth the effort I was going through. I can say without a doubt that I was absolutely blown away by the musicianship and the message. I couldn’t call enough people to tell them what an extraordinary evening it was. It is here that I remember why I support a child through Compassion. It is here that I see many artists telling a story through word, form, and song. It is here that I am reminded to behold the Lamb of God – to simply stop and look at the One who came to take away my sin. It was so, so good!

  13. Heather

    It is amazing what a group of people working together can accomplish. The music was beautiful! Seriously, when it ended I wanted the show to start over again right at the beginning.

  14. emily

    such a great night at the ryman! thanks for creating Behold The Lamb of God. beautifully done. I second the thought on the hymn sing. It Is Well….was amazing.

  15. Susan Martin

    Andrew, thank you so much for taking me along with you throughout this entry! What is most wonderful is the opportunity to sort of feel the love had for the tour but moreso your love for your family. You have an incredible ability to write and express, and for this brief moment I was a fly on your journal wall…and therefore into this small (though huge) moment in your life. Thanks for being real. It’s refreshing.

  16. katy

    i am one of the kids in the picture of the fourth grade class. i love the cd’s you gave us .our teacher told us the whole story and i think it is really cool that you helped her .thanks so much it was a great christmas present. i hope you remember what christmas is all about.

  17. Josh

    Oh yea and that song Gullahorn played at the Ryman was absolutely hysterical! Is there a bootleg copy of that floating around anywhere?

  18. Peter B

    So as usual, my comments come late… but what a warm welcome.

    Thank you, AP, and all the rest of you wonderful folks who make the show happen.

    Someday, at the Ryman… someday.

    Now to get psyched for Wingfeather II…

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