On the Sunday morning sidewalk
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
There ain’t nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks
Sunday mornin’ coming down.
Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” is at once masterful and haunting; after a drug induced high, Sunday morning “comes down”; i.e. he has to face sobriety. Or what sobriety brings, normalcy. Things like dressing and walking the streets should be easy. Yet he’s been stoned so long that everything normal seems abnormal. His only wish is to get stoned again to escape reality.
Some do turn to substance abuse to alleviate pain in a tragic attempt to escape their reality. While I don’t get stoned, I do get inebriated in so much as I become intoxicated with the routine of my life. I love the routine. After all, I have a plan. Meet goals, turn up the music louder, get busier, and sink into the pace. It’s wonderful really. Until problems surface that challenge the sustainability of my life. It’s then I realize business can distorts reality. A fact I would not realize unless my routine was upturned.
During these moments, advertisers tell me my slump exists because I have not purchased the latest thing that will sustain my high. So I buy it. I consume because it is the opposite of thinking. I don’t want to think, I want my routine. The goal in all of this is a pain free, comfortable life. Material blessings really are blessings after all. The problem is that I translate blessings from God as expectations for God. My routine is my right.
Suffering mercifully jolts us back to the truth that suffering is what Christ did and it is what He calls us to do. The reason this is so shocking is not that He did not promise it would happen – in fact He did; over and over the Word provides the promise of pain and suffering (John 15:21; II Tim. 3:12). The reason it is so hard is because I have become inebriated with the comfort of my own existence to the point that I worship my comfort. When we worship comfort, anything that threatens it is blasphemy.
When we are high on our routines and pain comes, the normality of suffering and the joy that goes with it just seems abnormal. The promised valley seems like a cursed island. Something strange. What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with God? In these moments, I realize how inebriated I really was with my own self. If you are drunk on yourself, pain is a gateway to sobriety. It’s Sunday morning coming down.
If you identify with this truth, take comfort. God does not hate you. He has not forgotten you. You are not facing His retribution. Pain is not the enemy. Pain is the prelude to glory. It is the middle glory between the descent of this life and the ascent into the next. Suffering is the hellacious, fully-caffeinated nectar of God’s grace that sobers us to His presence.
For what it’s worth, I’m just beginning to wake up to how inebriated I was. People ask you what you learn in the valley. And this is it. Suffering is not a pit, it is the middle. Suffering is the valley created by the two great mountains of descent and ascent. It was the valley Christ walked after His descent and before His ascent, and it is the valley for us as well. So if you are suffering, my encouragement is not a promise of a brighter tomorrow, but the sobriety that comes from the rarified air of a deep valley. So breathe deep. God is in the valley. God is Sunday morning coming down.