“When I’m reachin’ for the light, the darkness is not far behind.”
~ Vigilantes of Love
i have always been struck by this line from the Vigilantes of Love song “Opposite’s True.” It seems to capture so much truth about the struggle with compulsion, while acknowledging that a life of pursuing wholeness and holiness is a life lived in tension.
Even now, removed from the trap of my compulsive sexual behavior, when i reach for the light, darkness is not far behind. Temptation, reminders of the old “life”, accusation, condemnation, and doubt dog me.
Chasing the Light, dogged by Darkness.
In the second verse, Bill Mallonee, lead singer and songwriter for Vigilantes, sings this:
“Are there any words of wisdom i’ve picked up along the way?
Why yes death usually comes dressed up in her finery and lace.
Hey hasn’t everyone in these bars been crying inside their whole life through?
Well you might think we cease to hear it ah but no no the opposite’s true.”
We are chasing the Light in the hope that the cry inside us that’s been welling up our whole lives would be answered and soothed. The ray of hope in the verse is that Mallonee says, for all of us, we haven’t ceased to hear one another’s cries.
i always thought it was clever that the upbeat tempo of “Opposite’s True” belied the reality of what Mallonee was singing. i also think its poetic and powerful that on the Vigilantes of Love album “To the Roof of the Sky,” this song is followed by the darker and more somber “On The Verge.”
Mallonee was dealing with his own demons, but when i heard the opening lines of “On the Verge,” i thought he was talking about me with intimate, excruciating accuracy:
“On the verge of stealing
The precious thing you’re concealing.
Give the cup of grief to me
Hey, I’ll drink it to the dregs.”
In my compulsive sexual behavior i knew i was a thief and i drank the cup of grief far more times than i could ever count. Something about these lines seemed to complement the idea of the previous song that the Light is dogged by Darkness.
To say that light is dogged by darkness seems a poetic way of expressing God’s words to Cain: sin was crouching at the door, but he had to master it. Mastery seemed an impossible dream in my compulsion, and it was — just as Cain found he could not master what was crouching at his door.
Mallonee’s reference to Flannery O’Connor in the second stanza with the line “everything that rises must converge,” was prophetic, although i was oblivious to that at the time.
The full stanza goes like this:
“And if your senses are reeling, you know that
Everything that rises must converge.
Simply, in a word, you will
Lay your burden down and walk away.”
i had so many times wanted to lay my burden down and walk away. If only it were that easy.
Chasing the Light. Sometimes not really chasing so much as limping towards it.
The truly haunting line for me in “On the Verge” that encapsulated the futility of my life in my compulsion was the final lyric in the song before the out chorus:
“Give the cup of grief to me
But thirst is all that we can taste.”
This describes the agony of compulsive sexual behavior.
As a broken man in a broken world i find that far more often than i would like — essentially, all the time — the Light is dogged by Darkness. Even still this is true, despite the fact that i am not indulging my compulsive behavior.
And yet, as much as it is true that the Light is dogged by Darkness, it is equally — if not more — true to say that the Light hounds the Darkness. God is actually turning the tables on Darkness all the time.
The brilliant thing is this: while the Light is dogged by Darkness, and my efforts to chase the Light always arouse the attention of Darkness, the Light always gets the last word.
As John wrote, the Light shines in the Darkness and the Darkness has not understood it, or overcome it.
What Darkness thinks is a win is really just a set up for the Light to have the final say.
Mallonee hints at it with this line from “On the Verge:”
“What lies behind these suffering songs?
And yearning–well, for something more.”
Our hearts ache, yearn, and cry for more — for Life, really — and that is the revelation of the Light that will forever hound Darkness.