Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Burning Edge of Dawn - Andrew Peterson


Gracious Uncertainty

The Burning Edge of Dawn
Artist: Andrew Peterson (www.andrew-peterson.com)
Label: Centricity Music
Length: 10 tracks/38:12 minutes

If you like literate expressions of faith, The Burning Edge of Dawn by Andrew Peterson is one of the best you will find on record. I’m not being literal with regard to the latter. Unfortunately, the album is not available on vinyl.

Striking lines abound. One of my favorites comes in a dream sequence from the opening “The Dark Before the Dawn,”

I had a dream that I was waking
At the burning edge of dawn
And I could finally believe
The King had loved me all along

Why is it such a struggle to believe that last line?

What moves me about this release is the grace through which Peterson walks the line between certainty and uncertainty. In “We Will Survive,” Peterson addresses his wife,

Oh, Jamie, I’m all alone out here
And all I need to know is in the wind

And now I don’t recognize a thing
I need a brand new song to sing

In my Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers speaks of this graciousness of uncertainty, “We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God” (April 29th). In the preceding verses, Peterson conveys something similar. We may be shaken and not know what lies ahead, but we can be sure of God. As Chamber puts it, we can be certain in our uncertainty.

Peterson’s willingness to share doubt and weakness makes it easier for those who struggle to relate. In the same song, which is 10 out of 10, he goes on to say,

So tell me the story I still need to hear
Tell me we’re gonna make it out alive again
I need to know there’s nothing left to fear
There’s nothing left to hide
So look me in the eye
And say we will survive

Peterson has the humility to ask for reassurance since the outcome is unknown. When he sings “tell me the story I still need to hear” it speaks to me of our ongoing need of grace. We need to be continually reminded of the truths of the gospel.

Peterson’s unpredictability in verse is intriguing, but this track had me before Peterson even uttered a word. It starts with the beautiful notes of a hammered dulcimer. You can hear it elsewhere, but not as prominently as here.

“The Rain Keeps Falling,” inspired by the Luci Shaw poem, “Forecast,” is almost alarming.

I’m so tired of this game, of these songs, of the road
I’m already ashamed of the line I just wrote
But it’s true, and it feels like I can’t sing a note
And the rain keeps falling down

You will never hear a song like this at a health and wealth conference, but that’s a pity because it’s rich in authenticity. “And the rain keeps falling” is a repeated refrain, which is a metaphor for the relentlessness of trouble. In the middle of this storm, Ellie Holcombe sings a counter refrain, “Peace, be still.”

Towards the end, though the words reflect desperation, I find comfort in the object of their desire,

I just want to be new again
I just want to be closer to you again
Lord, I can’t find a song
I’m so tired and I’m always so wrong
Help me brave tonight
Jesus, please help me out of this cave tonight


Musically, Peterson has been heavier—this might be described as acoustic pop/rock—but he has never sounded better. This is one of the best albums of the year.
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