Names identify us. And many musicians and artists adopt monikers that define them.
Jane Marczewski won the hearts of Americans with her remarkable story and audition on America’s Got Talent earlier this month. But, she did not introduce herself as Jane. She is Nightbirde, a name she embraced during a very difficult time in her life.
The singer said in a recent interview that during a dark period of time after a terminal cancer diagnosis and her husband’s decision to leave her, she heard birds singing outside her bedroom window at night. While the first two times were dreams, the third time ended up being real.
“The birds were singing as if it was morning but there was really no sign of the light yet,” she said. “And I wanted to embody that. Being somebody that could sing through a dark time because I was so full of hope and assurance that there would be a morning.”
And she did.
What won the hearts of people everywhere was her upbeat personality and smile, even while facing overwhelming odds of survival. As she told the AGT judges, she had “some cancer” in her lungs, spine, and liver and was given a 2 percent chance of survival.
When Howie Mandell, one of the judges, told her that “nobody would ever know” she was dealing with cancer, Nightbirde replied, “Thank you. It’s important that everyone knows that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.”
Although she was undergoing cancer treatment at the time of the audition around the first of the year and felt sick, she says she is now doing physically well.
“The one who God whispers his secrets to”
Nightbirde’s blog shows that her dark journey has not always been cheerful. She went through the struggles most of us have while facing hard times. She grappled with hard questions we all ask. Earlier this week, Dr. Jim Denison mentioned the AGT contestant’s audition in his Daily Article and linked to her writings.
Reading them, I saw what brought her to the song in the darkness she wants people to hear. The wisdom and insight she shares sheds light into the dark.
In one blog, she says, “I remind myself that I’m praying to the God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but instead He let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray. For forty years, their shoes didn’t wear out. Fire lit their path each night. Every morning, He sent them mercy-bread from heaven.”
She learned lessons from the Israelites’ long journey: “I look hard for the answers to the prayers that I didn’t pray. I look for the mercy-bread that He promised to bake fresh for me each morning.”
And she found it.
“I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the wind chimes. It’s not the mercy that I asked for, but it is mercy nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: thank you. It’s a prayer I don’t mean yet, but will repeat until I do.
“Call me cursed, call me lost, call me scorned. But that’s not all. Call me chosen, blessed, sought-after. Call me the one who God whispers his secrets to. I am the one whose belly is filled with loaves of mercy that were hidden for me.”
Songs in the darkness
Nightbirde says that though she doesn’t fully understand all that has happened to her, she does know that, when it comes to pain, God isn’t often in the business of taking it away. Instead, he adds to it.
“He is more of a giver than a taker. He doesn’t take away my darkness, he adds light. He doesn’t spare me of thirst, he brings water. He doesn’t cure my loneliness, he comes near.”
And God gives songs in the darkness.
Just as the bird singing while it was still dark spoke to Nightbirde’s heart and soul with a message of hope and joy, God’s followers can do the same in our world. The AGT singer touched many lives with her message of hope, and I pray she will continue to do so.
The Apostle Paul and his ministry partner prayed and sang hymns in their darkness while in prison, leading to the conversion of the jail keeper and his family (Acts 16:25–40).
When it is the darkest, God’s light shines brightest. And his message of hope is most needed.
How is God speaking in your darkness?
Are you listening?