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A Land That I Heard Of

Every childhood has its clouds, we discover. Every cowboy has his sad, sad song.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

My mother’s beautiful soprano voice would sing to me when I was feeling blue as a little boy. I remember the piano room at our old house in North Yarmouth, Maine, was also the children’s playroom. Such a contrast it was between my mother’s classically-trained voice singing Judy Garland’s song or soaring arias from The Messiah and my brother and I waddling around the room in diapers, executing energetic pirouettes on the waxed wooden floor and rolling amidst colorful blocks and Tonka trucks. A small brass lamp shone upon the dark wood of the piano and yellowed the family pictures which marched in rows across its damask-covered top.

As my mother practiced her scales my brother and I ransacked the wooden toy box for our maimed Transformers and teeth-marked Legos; pulled out the Tinker-toy set with its plastic flanges and notched dowels; and stacked our Lincoln Logs in a thousand variations of engineering instability.

Few of our creations survived the hour; none could house a family or hold back the barbarian hordes we imagined lurked just beyond the circle of lamplight outside our door. We dreamed small dreams and ate small meals and wore small clothes. The land we had heard of was little bigger than that dual-purpose room; our troubles seemed mostly confined to the splinters we occasionally caught in our over-active rear-ends.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Hunched back on its granite ledge beneath large oaks and brooding pines the small house was neat but timid. As we grew bigger, my brother and I preferred the out of doors whenever weather—and mother!—permitted us to play in the rocky sand or weedy grass that grew like a cancer patient’s stricken mop over the granite ledge. We longed for wider spaces and faster paces; we blazed trails through the woods to the granite quarry behind our house with its black pools and jellied globes of floating frog eggs held in aqueous suspension. For us, a broken robin’s egg was Spanish treasure; an unexpected trickle kept us occupied for hours. 

The dreams that I dared to dream as a child were few and easily counted: I wanted to be safe and happy. I wanted my parents to love me and I wanted the biggest piece of whatever dessert was divided after our simple dinner. I fought with my brother and teased my sister and sometimes told a lie. I went to church every Sunday and heard about Jesus. I was not a very bad child but I was as depraved as any other.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me.

I did not understand why “somewhere over the rainbow” touched my heart as a little child; not until years later when I remembered my childhood from the far side of a Bible-cult experience and recognized my desire to be in a land that I had heard of “once in a lullaby.” A place far from spiritual abuse, legalism, and manipulation. I longed for a place where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops.

But did I really have to wait until “somewhere over the rainbow”? Or was there hope for the broken-hearted today? “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace,” said Jesus. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

As a little child in that little house in the woods I didn’t understand that the One who lives somewhere over the rainbow was also near to me each day of my childhood (Phil 4:5b). I didn’t really understand that he had gone away to prepare a place for me in Glory (Jn 14:1-3). Now I know that he did not forsake me; he was always with me, even in the clouds and rain of a darkened childhood. And I also know that someday he will come back for me and take me to be where he is: Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, to a Land that I heard of once in a lullaby. 

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow.
Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans has a helpful list of resources for recovering from spiritual or domestic abuse here.

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