Not Right Now

By

Following is the piece I wrote as an essay for the special edition of my new record, Love Will Have The Final Word.

The suffering of others can make us talkative, loosening the tongues of even the most timid among us. We mean well, we want to help, but more often than not we end up being like Job’s comforters: doing more harm than good by offering half-baked answers, which are no comfort at all and leave the hearer feeling even more alone. When we do this we are asking the suffering person to be okay, to cheer up, and in doing so we are rejecting their pain.

The loneliness of our own suffering can make us introspective. It can lead us into the shame and regret buried deep in our hearts, warranted or not (a friend of mine who had a miscarriage told me that all she wanted to say over and over again was, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” though she had done nothing for which she needed to apologize). In this we see how pain has the power to unearth our deepest wounds, driving them to the surface where perhaps God can begin to heal them.

Several years ago, I experienced one of the most healing moments of my life. It happened in the back lounge of a tour bus. I had just poured out my broken heart to my friend, Andy Gullahorn, when I recognized in the silence that fell between us that I was bracing myself for what he would say next. Would he try to fix me? Correct me? Would he reject my pain by offering answers?

After a moment Andy said, “Jason, I want you to stand up with me. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to hug you, and you need to let me hold you for at least two minutes. And I’m going to time it,” he said as he took off his watch, “so you’re not going anywhere.”

I’m not afraid of male bonding, but two minutes is a long time to hug anyone, let alone in the back lounge of a tour bus. I laughed nervously at first because I felt awkward. But then I found myself crying, and not long after that I started ugly crying. And then, as the last bit of strength I had been clinging to gave itself up, I felt like I sort of went limp and mostly just hung there, held up in the arms of my friend. He didn’t ask me to be okay. He didn’t offer answers. He just offered himself.

Pain is holy, and in the presence of holiness it’s often best to keep quiet. No words passed between us, but what Andy was saying, and what God was saying through him, was clear: “You are loved. You are not alone.”


20 Comments

  1. candifer

    i had a very similar experience a few years ago and immediately thought of that experience upon hearing this song. though i’ve not shared that story with many people, i draw on that experience often when i find myself plopped in the middle of others’ grief.

  2. Lanier

    Well this is just tremendous, Jason–the song and the essay. Thank you.

    Puts me in mind of this bit of Rilke wisdom:

    “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

    I can’t wait to hear the rest of your record.

  3. Chris Slaten

    I think those are your best opening lines for a song thus far.

    It is one thing to listen to Andy sing “I Will”, but it adds a lot to hear a story of him actually living that way.

  4. Rob Collins

    Wow, goodness. Jason your words and your song have flooded my mind with memories. Leading my grandmothers funeral last winter, weeping with my sister after she lost her infant son, holding my wife when her grandmother passed away, and sitting bed side of a mom of one of my youth as she prepared to leave this world – each moment tragic and filled with silence, save the crying. Thank you for writing honesty and truth my brother.

  5. Jill

    I could use that. Disease really does leave me feeling alone. It’s very lonely to have cancer. It hurts when those you thought would be there to talk to seem to disappear leaving you wondering why. Do they think it’s catching? Do they think you are cursed? Do they think you need to rest every minute of the day? Do they even remember you? It is frustrating. I’ve had to learn to expect nothing. Then if somebody does something nice I am wonderfully surprised.

  6. Emma McGarity

    This is definitely my favorite track on the new CD. I think many times God uses our pain to shape us. And that pain can later be used to reach others that are going through the same things. But, there is great value in just listening to a friend and not offering answers…. but offering the love of a listening ear. Sometimes the answer is simply “I love you, and I’m sorry that you are going through this.”

  7. Nathaniel Miller

    I really like this album. I love that it is as much about the struggle as it is holding to truth while experiencing it. I also enjoy the story and part that Andy Gullahorn played. It seems he is not just a songwriting ninja. He is roundhouse kicking people with his love and heart for them as well.

    Thank you, Jason, for allowing your struggles to bleed from your heart and provide grace to enjoy in our own struggles.

  8. Kaitlyn Luce

    Yes! This was beautiful to read. One of my roommates was what Andy was for you. Just held me as I let everything out. Holy moments…

  9. Dorothy Inman

    I do not believe in coincidences. My friend just posted the link to “Not Right Now” on my FB page after I posted a blog I wrote today about the help of my friends after I had a miscarriage at 18 weeks, on December 31, 2013. It’s really eery how your words mirror mine. Thank you for this song. I have honestly never heard your music, but this is the second blog that I have read of yours this week. Thank you for letting God speak through you.

    I wrote, “There was one point in our conversation where I felt the need to rehash all of the details of my delivery. During that time the only thing you could hear was sniffles and the rustling of tissue. Tears streamed down my face as I shared my tragedy and in solidarity, tears fell down their faces as well. My sweet group of friends did the most important thing they could do at the time: listen. They didn’t try to give me advice or try to cheer me up. They didn’t try to analyze what might have went wrong or tell me that God was in control of everything. They just listened.”

    And I promise this isn’t a blog spam, I just want to share with you what I wrote. If you have the time, you can read it here: http://dorothyinman.blogspot.com/2014/03/get-by-with-little-help-from-my-friends.html

  10. Laura

    This reminds me of my blog!

    Set Free to Dance

    December 15th, 2012 My 2012 Testimony

    Set free to dance….I awoke from a dream and remembered it. Not something I often do. For some reason it was vividly stuck in my mind. I was held and hugged by a tall, kind, comforting presence and then set down with this thought impressed upon my mind, “I’m you setting free to dance again.” The funny thing was I knew who had been holding me. It was Jason Gray, a musician, with the heart of pastor. You only have to listen to his music and watch his compassionate face during concert to know he understands, feels, and grapples with brokenness. This wasn’t a romantic dream. I feel like God was speaking to me through this dream, but I was hesitant to share this with anyone for fear of the dream sounding strange or inappropriate. But really, I think God was gently showing me that He wanted to hold me and was going to set me free to live again. This was sometime last spring, when I was spiritually very hungry and still broken from quitting teaching and feeling like a failure and desperately seeking community. It’s funny how I didn’t even pray for community and healing, but I think the Holy Spirit was praying that for me.

    About three months later, mid-summer, God answered my heart prayer. I made a new friend through a difficult work problem. He invited me to his lifegroup, where I immediately began to find new life! I found people that loved Jesus and loved me just as I was, not for anything I did or didn’t do. Six weeks later, I began attending Oasis Church and God began wrapping me in his love and truth as we studied 1 John. I began to find true, honest fellowship with like-minded believers and was able to minister to younger believers. A new friend and old acquaintance told me, “You were made for this!” He said this in reference to my comment about having been rejected a student leader in college and my joy at being able to minister in the lifegroup now!

    So, Jesus, thank you for taking an imperfect broken young woman that was angry with life, with you, with her failure, with the brokenness of life and setting her free to dance again. For breathing life into a desperately dry soul that didn’t even know how to plead for your grace! For providing new brothers and sisters that love me for who I am and pastors that constantly speak your Word and Truth into my life. Thank you that you are in the healing business Abba! Let me share that light and love with others through my life.

  11. Karen

    Jason – I just wanted to let you know that this song has deeply ministered to a dear, young friend whose husband just recently and unexpectedly died. He left 3 young daughters, ages 6, 9, and 11. My husband heard it on your new album and I forwarded the link to her on FB. She said she just cried and cried as she listened to the song over and over and over. It also ministered to the young man’s mom. Thank you for your ministry <3

  12. Colleen

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Your honesty and humility lead us all to understand ourselves better. Your friend has great understanding of what it means to love. A beautiful example and reminder of how we can help someone who needs to know God’s love through us.

  13. Randy DeShong

    What a powerful song. Never would have thought about pain that way. We are just conditioned to say things will be okay. We all know that but it is okay to fell pain. It cleanses the soul sometimes. Just part of the healing process. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Amy Green

    My five-year-old son died a little over two months ago, after a four-year battle with cancer. He had so many miracles, it really looked like we were going to win, until we didn’t. Andrew Peterson’s song “Dancing through the minefields” became our anthem through the three years my son was terminal, and I suspect “Not Right Now” will be the theme for us for this terrible season of missing him. Thanks for the song and the essay.

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