I’ve been working with a character lately. We started working together one evening when I sat down to write and I scribbled his name into my Moleskin. His name is Avian. I, then, sketched out his family and before you know it I was crafting an entire story around him.

He’s a young man, about seventeen. When he was younger he lived the life of privilege and honor. In fact, he hails from a royal family. When he was twelve he discovered he possessed a special gift—something no one else had.

In the same year his whole family was taken from him. He was left to believe they were all lost in an awful tragedy. Only he was saved; his guardian took him far to the north—away from those who wanted to take his precious gift away.

Over the years, he and his guardian settled in a quiet town. They started a new life, but in time the old life caught up with them. No longer a twelve-year-old boy, the young man continues to discover more and more about his past and the secrets his family kept from him.

Lately he’s been wrestling with a deep-seated betrayal. He hates that he was kept in the dark about certain aspects of his own family. The same man who took his family from him now chases him far to the west and all this young man can do is focus on what was taken from him. He doesn’t eat much, just gnaws on revenge and bitterness.

Last week, as I was sketching out a scene where he discovers even more about his family that he didn’t know before, he lost control and it was all I could do to keep him on the page. He was slowly growing into vengeance itself and there was nothing I could do, as his creator, his writer, other than let him ride off and kill a dragon.

I know many of us deal with our pasts on a daily basis. Some days those feelings that we thought were buried deep rise most unexpectedly. And when we let them hang on and hang on and hang on, they can turn us into something ugly, even volatile.

This week I’ve been reflecting on Psalm 137. It’s a poem of lament. It’s vivid and strange and sad. This image stuck with me:

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres.

These people were captives in a strange land. They could not sing, only contemplate revenge. When Avian snapped, he was eating lunch beneath a great hemlock in the mountains. Avian was in a strange land. But instead of finding a way out, he went further in.

Today, perhaps you need to hang up your lyre on the willow branches and lament a little. Maybe you feel yourself tumbling further into the pain you can’t seem to let go of. Maybe, like these Israelites, you’ve returned to a “land” that is shattered and destroyed. Maybe today you need to kill a dragon. Maybe today you need to let God play for you and sing you back into his love.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

— The Prayer Series: Killing Dragons In A Strange Land

Timothy Willard is the author of three books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. He lived in Oxford, England for two years studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis. He earned his PhD in Theology under the supervision of world-renowned theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.