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You cringe at each creak on the old warped stairs but that doesn’t sway your determination to reach the second floor. Your gaze is fixed on the top rotten step as you endure the climb. The walls watch. Things crawl under your skin.
The servant’s door shrieks on its hinges as an endless corridor empties into a dark master bedroom, occupied by a moth-eaten canopy bed dripping with cobwebs. Sallow peeling wallpaper sheds from the walls like dead snakeskin and flutters to the floorboards as you brush past. In the corner on a tattered rug sits a child’s wooden rocking horse, the seat worn smooth, the corded mane and tail coated in dirt. A mahogany chest of drawers stands lifeless with the top drawer still pulled out as if someone left in a hurry; a cracked mirror clings to the wall just above it, but you know better than to catch a glimpse of yourself in it.
The air is thick and heavy and it seems you inhale the shadows around the room as they cower and shrink back from the light of your candle. Their twisted silhouettes and outlines bottleneck in your throat like dead leaves circling a drain, and during this moment it becomes obvious that the quiver of a gentle candle flame may not be enough to keep the ghosts under the stairs… from coming out.
Slipping back the way you came, you creep down the hall like a thief and peer over the broken banister. Below lies a sad arrangement of disarray… sheets draped over furniture, tattered curtains hanging by mere threads, a cold stone fireplace, wet rotten holes in the plaster walls, a chandelier with broken strings of crystals, a man’s derby hat still hanging from a coat rack, and all manner of papers and debris strewn about the room. The walls lean in. Your blood suddenly stirs. Someone is crying in the room above you. Behind you are the attic stairs.
Your body’s reaction to the sudden drop in temperature sends an icy chill down your spine like a razor blade. A window is open somewhere. A dead breeze wafts the scent of mold and decay over you as the orange pinch of flame atop your stump of candle flickers once, twice, and then is gone. The darkness settles over your head and shoulders like a deathly bridal veil as your heartbeat quickens and goosebumps spread across your flesh. A foul dust in the air coats your tongue with a stale film and turns your throat to dry cotton. Now directly in front of you, like a tomb in a mausoleum, the attic door stands wide open, hanging by one hinge. There is movement in the walls.
Each stair screams out in pain as you ascend into the pitch darkness and both hands grip the wooden banister for fear of stumbling and falling backwards. At the summit, a few paces into the room, a lightbulb chain hangs in the blackness and you hold your breath as you give it a sharp tug. Nothing. Instead of flooding the room with light it seems to deepen the shadows even more, stirring up darkness like a diver stirring up soot in the belly of a shipwreck. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. Sweat soaks through your clothes, a hammer pounds at the insides of your chest and hot shivers cascade down your backbone. The silence is deafening.
Suddenly something moves in the room. You want to scream but you can’t. The sound of fingernails tear and claw at a chalkboard. A door slams somewhere downstairs. Hot tears spill down your cheeks. The mirror in the master bedroom crashes to the floor. Something moves toward you in the darkness. Your body commands you to make a break for the staircase but you’re far too paralyzed to move. Someone is screaming downstairs, shrieking with murderous ferocity, wailing with misery like a lamenting sailor’s widow. Footsteps pound down the second story hall from the master bedroom and pause at the foot of the attic stairs. Your vision blurs. They know you’re here.
It’s funny how the world has an uncanny way of resembling a haunted house sometimes. I suspect this statement seems unorthodox coming from an artist who publicly revels in both construction and consumption of uplifting music, but I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way — from time to time.
My buddy Matt and I wrote a song about this idea. The lyrics paint a picture of a forlorn haunted house, sad and forgotten, dead and lifeless on the outside but very much alive in its own nightmarish horror on the inside. The song quips about the idea that the ghostly inhabitants of such a spine-chilling place secretly long for sunlight to crash through the dirty windows and daisies to push up through the floorboards so they’ll feel alive again. I imagine if I myself were the resident of a haunted house, I’d wish for my fair share of sunshine just like anyone else, and that parallels the way I choose to “escape” from reality whenever the real world begins to grow cobwebs and lights start turning on and off by themselves. For me, those daisies are the most wonderful glimmers of hope imaginable, and such sudden sparkles of optimism and beauty suddenly make me feel brave.
All whimsy aside — and on an even more personal level than the aforementioned metaphorical disclosure, this song’s deepest level of symbolism parallels Jesus Christ as the only ray of hope I have in this haunted house of a world. For me, sometimes it’s easy to focus on the bloody nightmares that inevitably show themselves from time to time, but despite such dismal distractions, it’s obvious the Lord has a way of planting victorious hope all around, and sometimes such beautiful blooms of color and vibrancy crop up out of nowhere when I least expect them. At times it requires wisdom to see them, other times it’s stunningly obvious, but regardless of circumstance, these angelic reminders are tremendously potent and absolutely real. Thus I continue to keep my knees black-and-blue, constantly on the hardwood floor, wholeheartedly thanking my Savior for the tremendous grace I’ve been given, for I’m not praying to the ceiling anymore.
In so many words, this is the main idea behind a song entitled Plant Life on the upcoming record.
At the end of the day, I can only answer for myself and I’ll be the first to admit I’m nothing but a worthless sinner, day in and day out. I’m as imperfect and flawed as they come. Thus, when the sun disappears behind the clouds and life suddenly turns into a haunted house, I cling to Jesus with every fiber of my being because He is unfailing, He is absolute, He is steadfast and His grace is deeper and wider than my imagination can even fathom. In Him and Him alone is where I’ve discovered a hope more bright and beautiful than words can possibly describe.