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“So Father, I will give you thanks and praise
The Son has opened wide the gate of glory
He declared your mighty love and gave us grace
And I will tell his story, it is my story”
There is deep and meaningful worship in this last verse of Andrew Peterson’s “The Power of a Great Affection,” a song from his newly released album, The Burning Edge of Dawn. The statement highlights the wonder in the personal connection we have to the pain and suffering and the grace and joy of the gospel. But like a good book, the line has revealed a deeper truth as I’ve personalized it. In a small way, Andrew Peterson’s story has become my story.
It began on a rainy day in July. I, the intern, arrived at the Rabbit Room expecting to fulfill orders and instead fulfilled a dream. I was told to head over to Music Row, call Andrew, and be admitted into The Cave, producer Gabe Scott’s studio. Nervous and shaking like the stormy sky that day, I drove through the Nashville rain.
Being in Nashville was an introduction to loneliness for me. I had witnessed community at work through the Rabbit Room, and maybe that’s why I had for years perceived the city as a tight-knit community of artists. But there I was, going to museums alone, movies alone, and musicals alone. I even went to a Saturday swing dance in the shadow of Nashville’s Parthenon in hopes of finding a friend; I left silent and unnoticed. “It has been a rainy summer,” I thought as I read the interstate sign: “Caution: Ponding on Interstate.”
The beauty of unfolding art I witnessed upon my arrival at The Cave soon washed away lingering loneliness and nerves. I sat on the couch and felt guilty as I surreptitiously jotted down lyrics:
“This is the storm, this is the storm, the storm before the calm . . .
These are the tears, the tears before the song . . . This is the dark . . .”
The words named, for the first time, all my fears that were swirling like the day’s angry clouds. With the hope that there would be a dawn and with the witnessing of the work that was bleeding into the details—the meticulous attention to nearly imperceptible subtleties in just one line of one song—I nearly forgot I was there to interview Andrew. When he asked if I had any questions, I was honest. “I’ve never really done an interview before. Is there anything I should be asking?” In the silence before he answered, phones vibrated an emergency warning. The windowless studio had shielded us from the knowledge of the storm, but I was beginning to acknowledge a deeper rain.
As it turns out, we hardly had an interview at all. Conversation filled the empty spaces in the studio as Andrew and Gabe reveled in a friendship that was easy and natural and acutely focused on the wonder of making music.
After a few weeks of tables-for-one and lonely walks through the woods, I was at a concert at North Wind Manor to see Arthur Alligood and Chris Slaten. During the intermission, Andrew played “The Rain Keeps Falling.” He told us to sing along with Skye, “Peace, be still.” Now, hope had a name, too.
Sometimes hope has a waiting period before it is fully realized. I returned to college, to a community of friends who struggled through their own stories. On a sunny drive to church, I played “The Rain Keeps Falling.” My friend was riding shotgun. The girl she mentors is dying of cancer. Twenty-two is a hard time to put your life on indefinite hold, waiting for death. Loneliness wasn’t the only darkness. Her tears reminded me of the Nashville rain.
Like the Psalms, The Burning Edge of Dawn is not only for weeping. “Rejoice” and “Power of a Great Affection” became my soundtrack for autumn school days. Friends questioned my grin. I left for a spontaneous trip to Colorado the same day I got the full record. On a drive through the Rocky Mountains, I played “Every Star is a Burning Flame.” I smiled at the unfamiliar night sky, and “raised my broken voice” to rejoice. I knew what it was like to belong again, because these songs reminded me I belonged to “the Sower.”
The Hutchmoot-week album release concert was a glimpse of eternity, of the everlasting epilogue. It was a perfect period to the sentence of the creation of this album, as Andrew remarked:
“The release show was possibly my favorite concert that I’ve ever gotten to do. It was so overwhelming to get to stand on the stage with Gabe, Jamie, Skye, Asher on drums, with Andy and Jill and Ellie. Sweet friends and a lot of history. So many years of friendship, struggle, and pain were represented on the stage and to get to stand and sing about God’s faithfulness in a room full of people, many of whom were other dear friends, it was this overwhelmingly sweet night. It felt like the beginning of something. A lot of the songs on the record were about me asking, ‘Please let me see some sign of change or goodness in this season of doubt or whatever it may be’ and that night was like the answer to that prayer.”
Carrie Givens wrote that one word echoed through her Hutchmoot weekend: Story. Andrew’s album is a resounding note in that echo, because it tells a tale, unflinchingly, that resonates with me and with so many others because it’s told in the context of the great true Story. I think of certain lyrics:
“I run away home,”
“I want to sit beside you at the feast, my friend/again, again, and again,”
“The willows weep and the clover grows”
These are first lines in thousands of stories.
I will tell this story. It is my story. Because that’s the magic of this music. It is so real and almost raw in its honesty that it becomes not just one story independently lived, but the story of believers of truth and seekers of beauty.
What’s your story?