This Ship (Original Song by Haley Chafé)

What would you do if you met God in the wilderness? Would you wrestle or dance? Would you demand answers or whisper endearments? Would you pound on His chest and vent all your fury or let your pain drain away like warm teardrops as you sink into His embrace?

You might not think of me as a very angry person, but I have been secretly angry for many years. The nascent anger would suddenly rear its ugly head at unexpected moments, out of proportion to the provocation, like a boil being lanced by a tiny pinprick. My pastor once said that anger is a secondary emotion – it is often the result of feeling helpless or hurt, and I have definitely felt helpless and hurt.

It all came to a head in these last four months, when I found myself immobilised and racked with pain by complications in labour and breastfeeding that are actually very rare. I tried to put on a brave face, but sobbed brokenly in the nights when I thought no one could hear. It wasn’t just the physical pain, it wasn’t even the emotional trauma. It was the painful question ‘Why?’

“Why have you allowed this, God? Can’t I trust you to protect me?” I felt the fabric of God’s shirt was clenched in my fists, my face up close to His, but the only prayer I could muster was an inarticulate, hoarse, incessant wail.

I have been thinking about two people in the Bible who meet God in the wilderness. There’s Jacob, wrestling with the Angel of the Lord (Genesis 32:22-32). I have been told that “God can handle your anger, he can take your pain, it’s okay to wrestle with Him.” This is true. But constantly being ‘raw’ and ‘honest’ with God was opening a door to anger that was slowly poisoning me from the inside. Surely there was a higher way.

Then I realised that there is another who meets God in the wilderness – the Beloved in Song of Songs. ‘Who is this, coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?’ (Song 8:5). The one is a fighter, the other is a lover. The one goes back to his old ways (Jacob lies to his brother immediately after his name is changed from ‘Deceiver’ to ‘Prince of God’), the other is unrecognisable in her radiance, so deeply in love.

And in the end, even the wrestler had to become a lover – even Jacob finally leaned on his staff and worshipped. (Hebrews 11:21) Oh, that I would get there before the end! I want to be a lover, not a fighter.

And so, this song is about letting go, about surrender. It is by my graceful and gorgeous sister Haley Chafé – she is a lover of Jesus, and it is an honour to sing with her and to know her.

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