Written by: Laura Chambers (February 12, 2018)
Pain. Sharpened by the horror of tragedy personalized, it has the power to wound and to heal. It is both the assassin’s dagger thrust through the heart, and the surgeon’s scalpel opening a way for medical intervention. The difference lies in our approach. Will we allow ourselves to remain paralyzed by our fear, anger, and shock, or will we slowly, like trees set to slumber by the cruel winter winds, reach for each ray of sunlight as it gleams through the clouds, drawing greenery from the barrenness of our branches?
Audrey Assad’s journey to spiritual wholeness was rife with opportunities for stumbling off the narrow path. Yet it was those same curves and obstacles that piloted her towards a deeper understanding of God, rather than allowing her to continue languishing at a distance. Evergreen is like a window into Assad’s heart, showcasing her struggles with belief. Her songs echo the joys and frustrations of psalmists and pilgrims, past and present, as they travel along life’s winding road.
We begin with the haunting sound of “Evergreen”, perfectly capturing a moment in which our eyes become opened to the realization that our surroundings have more in common with the garden than the grave. Assad shows us the miracle of provision in an unlikely setting. The source of the title is the song’s last lines, reminding us that the tree of life (our source of hope) is green and fragrant through every season. “Deliverer” paints a portrait of Jesus as one who will never make us accept Him, or stuff us into a mold, or anything to override our free will. He is saving us from our own fallen natures, not deflecting the stones of hatred we imagine God is throwing at us. The chorus seems to be made for repetition. We remind ourselves and declare that He never ignores us because of who He is; it’s not in His nature. “Little Things With Great Love” is a hymn that seems to meander like a river, or a child running through a green meadow. Though we may feel as though our works and tribulations slip by unnoticed, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus weeps when we are heartbroken and celebrates when we are rejoicing. All He asks is that we continue to do His works, however simple and unnoticed by the world. May it also open our eyes to see and supply the needs of others, fulfilling our role as His instruments on Earth. Instead of focusing on the daunting journey ahead, “The Joy Of The Lord” optimistically views the winding road before us, assured that only good can come. Though trials are inevitable, they will produce something more valuable than comfort or safety; an inner strength that cannot be broken.
A cry for people to take action, “River” directs us to choose what is good and just, to mourn with those who mourn, to free those who cannot help themselves. When we seek God’s will, He will help us to do it, smashing through every barrier in the way like the surging rapids crashing against the rocks. The track features a rap segment by Propaganda, unexpected, but along the same lines – perhaps giving a voice of the people we are being called to aid. “Unfolding” is a desperate prayer uttered in the midst of a crisis of faith. Who am I? Who is God? Why am I here? Was I chosen and loved or random chance? Assad ponders the answers to these and other questions. The background noise ramps up, creating a sense of increasing confusion, then all but hushes, the questions that haunt her the most continuing to resonate deep within her. Anybody who has wrestled with doubt before will remember their own struggles in vivid color. Continuing on this theme, “Teresa” is the longing of one who feels abandoned by a silent God but still hungers to know and feel His presence. Though voices try to dissuade us from drawing closer to a God that supposedly exists only in our imagination, their clamor drives us closer in the hopes of erasing our confusion. On the other hand, His apparent absence pulls us to the places He may be found, hoping to see Him by surrounding ourselves with those in need. “Irrational Season” describes a time in our lives when nothing makes sense to a rational person. We stumble into the darkness, blinded and confused. Yet the beauty of the One who’s more visible than ever in this moment astounds us to the point where we don’t have to know or understand, just experience a love brighter than any star. We cannot grasp Him, but we see His glory just the same.
“Wounded Healer” uses an image that appears to be a contradiction at first glance; the One who is supposed to deliver us from our scars bears marks of His own. It is a mystery we cannot fathom – God becoming man and experiencing pain and death that He might deliver us from something He knows the agony of firsthand. It is this that moves us to give ourselves to Him – His willingness to sacrifice Himself to save us. Shame and pain act as the primary hindrances standing in the way of a return to grace, but even these are cast aside “When I See You”. The closer God comes to us and the more He makes Himself known, the easier it is to embrace freedom and joy. “Immanuel’s Land” returns to hymn territory with Assad’s deep longing for the day she shall be in the presence of Christ, experiencing His fullness like never before. I just have this image in my head of someone walking along a beach, kissed by the gentle spray of ocean waves, her eyes drawn to the lighthouse on an island in the distance; then getting into a rowboat and being ferried across the water, eyes still fixed on the constant flame of the lighthouse. “Drawn To You” paints our best attempts to serve and trust God in our own strength as inadequate, though He accepts each of our offerings as gifts of love. There’s just something about Him that pulls us towards Him, despite the sacrifices we are asked to make, the arguments against pursuing Him, and everything else that seems to point in another direction.
Whatever wounds doubt, drought, and darkness might inflict on us, it is possible to see them for the blessings in disguise they truly are. The opportunity to grow new buds where dead branches have been pruned away. The strengthening of a repeatedly and painfully stretched muscle. The blackout that extinguished all of the streetlights so that we might see the light of a galaxy of stars instead. Hidden potential that could not be fully realized until one was forced to rely on it and no other. Evergreen chronicles the often painful but ultimately rewarding path we must all travel at one point or another, punctuated with questions yet pregnant with hope. Audrey Assad spares us neither the angst of uncertainty nor the awe of revelation in what is certain to be one of this year’s most memorable releases.