I’ve always needed some time to muse about the nature of what I want to commune and share with people every single time I have the privilege to be invited to expose myself as I’ve generously been by Jesus Freak Hideout, who recently offered me this “carte blanche” opportunity. It’s even more special for me, as after more than 10 years of being part of the pretty singular and evolving entertainment world, it is the very first time I express myself on a Christian-faith oriented website.
To be honest, I have never been too concerned with the media I would be invited to share with nor too preoccupied with the brands supporting or sponsoring any of those. I have neither been troubled with the political agenda that the groups could be associated with or not. My vision, maybe naive, has constantly been to look beyond the labels, the tags, and the uniforms. Beyond all differences usually designed to maintain an obvious separation between groups, there is a person, whom I’ve learned to look at without the judgmental assessment of my own values, misunderstandings, and prejudices... Even when it’s hard to see through those differences.
In fact, it’s that continuous attempt at reaching out to others that has led me in all sorts of wonderful places and that offered me the blessing of meeting incredible individuals, from whom I’ve probably learned more than I would like to admit or can even understand. Paradoxes are strange and bizarre reflections of our world views. We can learn a lot about ourselves from those, and maybe that’s why I'd rather see the world from under His bright light than from my shadowy perceptions... Or at least, that may be why I am fascinated by human nature and why I am so inspired by what made us who we are - or so we like to think and believe.
And it’s with that perspective that I wrote my album “Windows in the Sky”; in order to mourn, understand the vibrant faith and honor the life of my lost father, a complex man who was a very singular and unique person. A former alcoholic, depressive, unreachable person who completely turned his life around the second he became a Christian, another one who was taken too fast by cancer, but who was tremendously excited to finally be with his true love in Heaven. I have never been there much in his life, but I was at his bedside the moment he passed away, broken as a man but peaceful as a believer. It troubled me, to be honest, and for several reasons. The evolution of my own faith, the reflection this moment had on my own mortality, as much as how it suddenly put my sole existence into a different context... It wasn't his death that hurt the most, but my inability to feel anything about it, an emotional black out of sorts, perfectly exposed when I fronted my band and headlined a 90,000-person music festival in Taiwan less than 5 days after my father's passing. The next 3 years would see me in that same state, miserable at best, and in total denial of the reasons beneath it.
I found my way back into the light when I finally decided to let go. I was then living in the dazzling city of Tangier, where I had found refuge of my own, alone, and where I ultimately stayed for 2 years. How ironic is it for me to say that I’ve been able to grieve my Christian father in a Muslim country? I told you, paradoxes are a way to see through your own darkness. I wrote a lot in Tangier, reflected on life… Mine, my father’s, that of the people I know, as much as that of passers-by... After 10 years screaming in a microphone, I was able to listen, to admire the simplest of all details... From the silent contemplation of my new personal journey to the cathartic noises of life being lived in the streets of what seemed to tourists like an ancient lifestyle. There’s kindness to be found in hopelessness, as much as there’s freedom in faithlessness. It’s at that point in time that I realized that my trust in what was "absolute" was in fact a need for security, and it’s only when I started to free myself from all those religious clichés I had holed myself in that I started being able to feel again, to emancipate my heart and spirit, to see what had been invisible for me all along…
I left Tangier with less answers than I thought I was entitled to give others about their lives, but it felt good. I went home and finished what would become my album “Windows in the Sky” by writing a song called “The Hunter (By the Seaside Window)”, a song that adresses that inner struggle we all have, at different stages of our lives, actualized in different ways. The essence of being the hunter or the prey, when we are both at once, trying to figure out what to make out of our existence and the emotions that come with it. It’s a song that reflects on our intimate doubts as much as the comfort we find in Him, the turbulences of insecurities, the disturbing motions that lead to the establishment of the cultist religion of self rather than the honest admission of our fragility and need to be consoled, dispossessed of that invitation to be real. Whatever it means for ourselves or others, we are disoriented, our identity is lost, and illusions take place, so close to the model they are copied from, but still only make-believes… until we let go. There’s no defeat in abandonment, no fatalism in kneeling down, no condemnation in confession. Those are some of the undertones I wanted to illustrate in the song. The self-preservation with which we feed our so-called security, dealing with our own contradictions and their confrontational nature also illustrates that by denying our humanity, we also deny God’s divinity and therefore His identity, may it be towards our struggles or daily life devotionals.
I have often seen “acceptance” as surrendering. That is, I guess, the real challenge we all have, especially nowadays; to admit our fear in the storm, our weakness in time of unknown. We live in a society that praises highly performances and results, and confessing our real state of heart and mind is seen as being either a lack of faith or character. It may be even more true within the context of the Church, where “performances” are the ultimate temptations, from raising kids into wonderful adults, to cultivating a fulfilling marriage, up to being exemplary employee and employer. No one wants to be the prey, but we rarely take care of the hunter that lives within us. And this might also explain why it took so long for some “scholars” to see mental distress for what it is; a need for help, not a reflection of how spiritual or not a person is. It is ok to confess just how out of breath we feel. Can we have faith and be scared? Can we believe in God and admit we are fearful for what tomorrow may be? Well, reading the Bible tells me that not only it is ok to be tired, but it comes with the fabulous promise of being welcomed and discharged… How amazing is that? But how complicated do we tend to make such a blessing as we become more atoned with our religious culture and become somewhat blasé with the simplest of all miracles - the one we can see everyday in the mirror? Is it due to a fatigue after seeing so many miracles and no longer recognizing them?
I guess, in retrospect, looking at my father laying down on his deathbed, utterly joyful regardless of the tiny fraction of strength he had to fight the implacable enemy that is cancer, that this has been the most impacting image my heart could have been imprinted with. Even if he was unable to articulate a word at this point, I knew what his kind and passionate light blue eyes wanted to tell me: “Let go, Alex… Let go. It’s time get back home and be healed now”. It took me 5 years afterward to be able to say: “I love you dad. Thank you for everything. I am home now.”
Again, I would like to thank Jesus Freak Hideout for their generous carte blanche invitation. I do hope, even though there would be so much more for me to share and commune with you, that my personal testimony has not only been an encouragement for those who needed some, but also a consolation for anyone looking for as much as an opportunity to let go. We all need to do so at some point in our lives and for so many different reasons, regardless of the present relational structures we are all intermingled in and so often lost within, social distanciation or not.
Wishing to have another opportunity to chat with you all.
Be safe and peaceful,
Join Alex Henry Foster & The Long Shadows in the church-studio for 60 minutes of live music on May 1st at 9pm: https://www.facebook.com/prog/