The agony of love lost, the hurt of betrayal, the hopelessness of depression, the despair of loneliness, and the torture of anxiety are transformative emotional experiences. Whenever we come in contact with these emotions, we grow up a little. We are imparted a fuller dimension of the human experience in a broken world. Through God’s grace, such difficult emotions can also become a catalyst for growth. Though we can feel like we’re trapped in a suffocating cocoon, in the hands of our redeemer, such emotional experiences can transform us into free-flying butterflies.
With her latest release, Midnight Moonlight, 18-year-old Ravyn Lenae grows up a little too. In an interview with Rolling Stone, where she was named as one of March’s 10 artists to watch, Lenae used colors to explain the difference between her first EP and this one. “Moon Shoes is very pink and yellow, and maybe orange, very bright, whereas Midnight Moonlight is purple and blue and, I don't know, gray,” she said. “Not to say those colors are sad, because a lot of times people like to equate those colors with sadness, or [being] blue. But those colors are more emotion-felt, and deep, and sultry.”
On Midnight Moonlight, Lenae’s soulful, R&B voice, combined with experimental electronica, creates exactly this sort of sultry depth. It seems as if the depth also stems from emotionally charged experiences, like the feelings of loneliness Lenae sings about in “Unknown”:
I'm only lonely
When the night is home
Controlling for me
'Til my right is wrong
Nothing's the way it seems
When things go wrong
I know me, know me
I cannot move on
I cannot move on
In another song, “Thirst,” Lenae refers to sleepless nights, a thirst she can’t quench, and a feeling of emptiness. The melancholy blue of these emotions plays through in the mellow meandering of the music, which also includes audible bursts and disrupting popping sounds. There is an emotional depth being captured here, an echo of the struggles that surface in different seasons of life.
We have a savior who plumbed the depths of human emotions.
Whether young or old, all of us have had our own emotional struggles. One of the great claims of Christianity is that we have a savior who plumbed the depths of these human emotions when he took our place on the cross. Christ is our fellow traveler as we navigate confusing, and oftentimes conflicting, emotions. He knows how difficult life can be as we try and grow up.
God is a good parent who, in love, wants us to grow up. George MacDonald said, “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.” What he meant is that God takes joy and delight in every baby step we take, but he still wants us to learn to walk and one day even run. The plan of our heavenly father is for us to grow up, in all aspects, into him who is the head—Christ. It can be a painful process. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” The loneliness, emptiness, and endless thirsting in Midnight Moonlight is part of the transformation process. In those difficult times, may we run to God and say with Lenae, “I’m empty, fill me up.”