by Michael Gallup
As Cliff and I turned East into a little box canyon nestled among the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, we found ourselves transported and perhaps transformed. The glowing groves of aspen trees lined the snow-capped peaks around us with a green bed-skirt and drew us into the town of Telluride, a bastion of beauty seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Our favortite phase soon became, “look!” We were like three year olds going to the zoo for the first time, bewildered by the scenery.
There are a few times when you forget about all the pain and suffering that dominate not only our lives but all of creation itself, when you see or experience something so beautiful that it hides all the ugly. Jesus spoke about such things as the light and that the light shines in the darkenss and the darkness is compeltely overwhelmed by the light. This weekend I saw glimpses of that light and for a few moments the darkenss trembled and ran.
I don’t want to over sentimentalize my experience, but my life like so many others I know has been filled with little but darkness and even the beautiful things around me have been hard to see. I have begun to doubt that the light will actually overcome and yet it often finds me in the strangest places. When my faith is dragging God has a way of showing up at just the right time although He often seems late or out of place. So in a sea of hippies, missing a shoe, listening to something akin to bluegrass music, I found God again and it was beautiful.
This trip to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival was just a chance to get away and have some fun but I found my expectations lacking. Absent were my girls, my wife and daughter, and consequently my sanity. I struggled to survive camping on a baseball field in the town of Telluride. Not only had I lost my shoe, but added to the lost and unfound list was a sock, my hat, my cash, and one lens from a pair of sunglasses. Yet somehow, I barely managed to stay alive. But the real battle had less to do with physical survival but spiritual. I battled inwardly about whether I deserved to celebrate life when so many in the world were deprived of the very basics of life. But the reality is that life will not die, the light will overcome and when it breaks through we must dance.
In a weekend full of highlights and special moments, one stands out clearest. At a side stage in the midst of what amounts to a yard off of main street Telluride we saw one of my favorite acts, Abigail Washburn, perform an impromptu acoustic set five feet from me. As I sat on the grass and soaked up the surreal moment, tears welled up in my eyes as Abigail sang “Chains.” As the wind gushed through the park, the band delivered a cry for freedom, a cry that my heart longed to utter. Devoid of amplification, stripped to their rawest, I saw my soul reflected in the honesty of that moment. Life was passing me by. I was chained to darkness by my fears and for a split second the light of hope burst the chains off me and my soul lept to its feet to dance.
I could hardly wait to return home, both literally and figuratively, to start living life instead of merely watching it pass by. Below is a video of the actual performance detailed here captured by the guy sitting beside me, a stranger, but forever a friend for grasping this spark of light.
I pray for the light to shine, for beauty to grasp us and free us. I pray that we breathe in deeply the aroma of life and give ear to the melody of God. I pray we dance.
Michael is a student at Denver Seminary. His favorite “bluegrass” band is the Punch Brothers.