The Kingdom Suffers
I met the guys in Sleeping Giant at the end of 2008 during Veil Arms’ miniature The Wake Tour. I had just begun performing as Levi The Poet, and during my set at The Door in Dallas on the first night of the run, I bashed myself in the face with a metal trash can lid that I used to perform with so hard that the audience was scared I was going to knock myself out.
During those few days, something happened in my life that I’ll never forget: Jesus gave me hope for my dad’s physical healing. The Lord was doing something miraculous in the hardcore scene at that time, and specifically, on that tour, through the band Sleeping Giant. I know that it wasn’t their power and their zeal and all the devil’s advocate’s theologically-argumentative questions… I get that. But the Lord first comes to us in power, not in text-book.
I saw kids saved on that tour. I saw people healed from physical ailments and spiritual death on that tour. And it wasn’t the last tour that I saw those things, but it was a profound first.
Around that time, my dad was a couple of years into a season of life that would eventually end in suicide. He had just endured a back surgery gone wrong, and it laid him to waste on the living room floor of our home for years.
The final night of the tour ended in Albuquerque, and during the drive home, I felt the Spirit urging me to do everything possible to get my dad to the show. He didn’t want to come. He didn’t think he could come. But I literally begged him, and I told him that I believed he was going to be physically healed that night.
He wasn’t able to sit, or stand, so my friends and I laid out a folding table for a makeshift bed so that he could lie down and watch the show. At the end, many of the people in our community gathered around his table to pray over him. When they all left, Eric Gregson took my dad to this hallway to continue praying. He brought in a chair and had him sit down and stand up and give verbal indicators of the levels of freedom he might have been experiencing, marked by percentages… “Would you say it’s at 40%? 60% better? 70%?" I remember Eric being so pissed off that they never made it to the 100%-healed mark. Haha. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed when my dad crawled back into the passenger seat of the car, headed home in pain the same way he came.
Many will read this and decide that the Christian faith is complete foolishness. Many will conclude that if God is real and does speak, he plays sick jokes as an indian giver. Many will decide that it is evidence of failed or forfeited promise.
Who wouldn’t wonder? I did. I'm not writing to stop your wonderings. In fact, keep wondering. Jesus is not a God who tells you to turn your brain off.
The band and I kept in touch some during the final few years of my father’s life. When I saw them, they’d ask about him. About our family.
After my dad committed suicide at the beginning of 2011, I thought back on that night, and wondered why I had been so sure of the Lord’s promise to heal him, when I had just said goodbye to my three-week-dead-dad’s body stiff and sunken in the corner of an empty room at the mortuary.
But this is the hope that I cling to: the Lord’s assurance, in that moment, that his promise was not in vain. That he had healed my father. It was this undeniable peace - a gift given - that truly, God had fulfilled his promise to me on that day, and that though we suffer, marred by sin and death on earth, my dad finally received the body that he had been promised in heaven.
In the following years, Sleeping Giant and I have had some funny interactions. I punched Little Ryan’s bass that I have no idea how to play for at least an hour during some spontaneous worship session at a festival. I reviewed their Kingdom Days In An Evil Age album for HM Magazine and said something about agreeing to disagree on “openhanded doctrinal issues” and Tommy, a few months later, sat down next to me and quietly, humbly, asked, “Levi, what the hell is an openhanded doctrinal issue?” Haha.
During the first year of me and Brandi’s marriage, we were on tour with White Collar Sideshow, staying with our friends Chris and Carol Wilson in Ogden, UT, and Tommy and Krissy and the Man Cub drove up from Salt Lake to hang out with us. Before night’s end, Tommy asked if he could pray a father’s prayer over our marriage. I hadn’t wept like that since the funeral. I don’t even think I wept like that at the funeral. I’ll never forget that prayer that Tommy prayed - from a father to a fatherless son.
I don’t even know why I’m writing all of this stuff, honestly. Seems like a clustercuss at the moment, but I suppose I just wanted to honor my friends. I hold Sleeping Giant in high esteem. I love and respect them and care about them and believe that Jesus has worked beautifully in and through their lives, music, pain, rejoicing. I'm thankful for the places they go that I never could. I'm thankful for our differences. I'm thankful for our similarities. I'm thankful that some of the deepest sufferings we've endured have been used of God to bring about His redemptive purposes in the lives of many others who have come to know the love of Jesus through these stories. I'm thankful that Jesus made the Sleepy Gs a part of my story.
Their new album came out a couple of days ago, and I had the privilege of writing a song called “Violence” with them on it. It’s not directly related to any of the things I wrote about here, but I suppose, principally, it relates. We live in quite the tension. The lyrics for that track came out of a desperate year. A confused year. A year where it felt like the only hope that I had to cling to came to me in a whisper one morning, and the quiet words were:
“I have not abandoned your heart.”
Such a lovely whisper.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." - Romans 15:13
"Where death once ruled, now You reign. Where sin once ruled, now You reign."