beware the loudest songs

January 14, 2013


(image credit)

Asher is enthralled with song lyrics. Trouble is, he quite often hears the singer belting out something other than what they’re actually saying. He’s only five, so of course this makes sense. And who among us has never mis-heard song lyrics?

You know the song Voices Carry? From the 80’s? When I was a kid, I thought Til Tuesday was singing a soft, ominous, This is scaaary.

Yesterday Asher questioned some of the lyrics only he heard. WHY is he saying that?

He’s not, Sweetie.

Yes. He says, (whatever he thought Adam Levine was singing but wasn’t, I can’t remember) !!!

No, honey. He’s not saying that. It just kind of sounds like that. 

Yes, he is. 

Well of course he thinks so. That’s how he heard it, from his five-year-old perspective, the way it would make the most sense to him. This made me think of how we all do this. How we shape things to suit our situation or our perspectives, opinions or beliefs. So much of the time we have no idea we’ve done that.

I wouldn’t want to be a pastor or a seminary professor or somesuchthing because of this. It’s quite a risky business, making statements like, God says…or, This is what it means when the Bible says (fill in the blank)…

I was just leafing through some notes I’ve tucked away from all different experiences in the church. I like to write things down during church. When I was younger, I took most of it as Truth without much thought of my own. Then I realized my beliefs can’t really be all that genuine, if  I wasn’t thinking about what God means to me, this personal relationship everyone kept talking about. What was God doing all around me and you and you?

I started to realize this song lyric phenomenon thing is happening a lot in churches. You can especially see it during election years and after tragedies or an increase in some kind of media coverage over immoral behavior–more murders, more affairs, more drugs…Suddenly, the scripture used in the sermon was speaking to that specific issue all along. But in a few years, the same verses will be reported from the same pulpit to have meant something else all along, depending on the current affairs of the people walking around the earth screwing up.

(This is not to say that every pastor or teacher does this always and forever and it isn’t to say that they do it intentionally. They’re only human, too.)

There’s one really loud and long Christian song, I’ve noticed. A rising voice over the treetops and our triumphs and failures. God has been singing it since the beginning of anything and it has all kinds of parts. Three part harmony, so many verses, stanzas…pages and pages filled with notes and none of us can hear it clearly because there’s so much other noise, especially coming from inside our very own hearts and minds.

But the song is beautiful and some of us hear grace and love in that song, yes, maybe to a fault, but I don’t get to know that right now, because no matter how hard I strive for perfection, I remain human.

Then some of us pick up the Bible and pull God’s wrath from the Old Testament to the New and then despite a new covenant, it just feels better to have something rigid to hold to, something black and white and seemingly obvious. Consequences. Some kind of ladder to climb.

Yes, that’s what He’s saying! 

Sometimes defiant like a five-year-old, sometimes simply sure but more careful about it.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems the defiant ones are those we should maybe steer clear of, because this should scare us, right? Can humility and that much confidence in one’s own understanding of things exist in the same place?

Sometimes I wish every pastor or leader of any kind was a recovering addict. That’s not to say that we addicts have risen above in wisdom or have some kind of special humility that no one else can have. It’s to say that we know that we haven’t and we don’t and won’t. When you admit how powerless you are over drugs or alcohol or whatever has control over your life, I mean really surrender, you find that this Higher Power business is a stream of mercy and you can’t understand how you could be sober even one day after all you’ve seen and done and swallowed.

You suddenly come to know that you are both God image and tiny, at once. Both. You see that your thinking has not gotten you to the best places and that if you are to continue to see God or faith or life or people through the lens of your personal experience or rigid opinions or stubborn pride, you are choosing a life as tiny as you are. But, and this is a big but…if you’re able to see it all as the stream, ever-moving and shifting and shaping rocks and pulling us along and you start to ride it….you get to relax. You are free and God is so much bigger. You aren’t so afraid, standing on soap boxes with angry shouting just to be right.

Just look up and hear it. It is so much more than you thought. That’s how it was for me, and how it continues to be revealed to me as I shut off my jaded opinions, what I think I know because I heard it when I was five and the lyrics became an ear bug, playing over and over through all the years, but alas…a word here, a section there…from above the trees and in the quiet I hear it…

Oh God, that’s not even what you were saying. Oh God…

and I have to smile because of how BIG it all is…and it was only hard to understand because of me.  

I can only tell my own story, I can’t instruct. I’m just Heather. I write on a blog.  I don’t know everything, not even close. And the things I think I know might not be right and one day I’ll find out and then I’ll move on. So what I’m saying is that we all only have this very moment. This day. We know what we know for today and we are what we are. We cannot make ourselves more, that’s just too dangerous. We have to surrender what comes out of our mouths as much as I need to surrender daily to a God who helps keep me sober. 

I don’t envy the leader, the pastor, the instructor, taking their stabs at a message they have to report is from God. Even on the very best day, clear skies, clear eyes, right hearts…it’s difficult to get all the lyrics right with such a song as this.

And I will steer clear of the leader, the pastor, the instructor who seems to have no idea the song is playing not only inside, but outside, of himself.

{This is my response to the embarrassing and consistent arguments online and off among Christians. Who has the corner on theology? Who is getting it Right? Who is damned to hell for getting It wrong? If you see and hear arrogant, defiant and reactionary responses full of scripture, I hope you can still hear The Song. Funny thing is, God’s song is often the quiet one.}


Kelly @ Love Well January 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

The older I get, the more I respect only humility – true, soul-level awareness of God is God and I am not.

And the funny thing is, I think the truly humble are always reluctant to be loud.

Ellie January 14, 2013 at 11:40 am

This is so beautiful, Heather. It speaks to me on many, many levels.

I hear the song sometimes – just a little snatch of it here and there, and it’s so beautiful. But I only hear it when I’m listening, not talking, not thinking too much, not believing too much in the song I sing to myself.

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Elizabeth January 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

This is beautiful, Heather.

But on another note, I have to tell you that right up until I read this post just now, I thought it was “…this is scary”. Feeling a little sheepish now. : /

Megan at SortaCrunchy January 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

Oh, such truth. SUCH TRUTH, sweet friend.

“Can humility and that much confidence in one’s own understanding of things exist in the same place?” You have pinpointed with incredible exactness something that has been itching at me for years, but I’ve never been able to say it so succinctly and simply. But this is a question all of us should think on – carefully. Each day.

Your insight about the power of recovery in our spiritual leaders is why I think I am so drawn to Brennen Manning’s writings. Each chapter of his book is saturated with humility and the fullness of understanding what it means to be humbly sustained by His grace alone. I am confident that Manning’s journey of recovery allows him that powerful perspective.

I’ll come alongside you in all of this noise and let’s listen together for the quiet song of God.
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jen January 14, 2013 at 11:54 am

streams of mercy, yes. And wow. Those who sing the loudest often have no idea what they’re saying. Same is true for tv talk show “hosts.” We have to mute those voices to hear the song. And we get to question and we get to be wrong. Yay.
jen recently posted..Faith Like a Child

suzannah | the smitten word January 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm

“You suddenly come to know that you are both God image and tiny, at once.” this really stood out to me. we are always both, aren’t we? sinner and saint, holy and broken and being-made-whole.

keep singing. we need it.
suzannah | the smitten word recently posted..about the hell and paradise right here

Leslie January 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

One of your best, Heather. (hugs)

Pamela January 15, 2013 at 1:41 am

This is truth that you speak.
In my head i kept saying, “YES!” again and again.
Thank you.
Pamela recently posted..the gift of silver

Kristine January 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I am new to your blog and I just had to leave a comment on this very very well written post! This quote: “Can humility and that much confidence in one’s own understanding of things exist in the same place?” I had to sit back and read it over and over again. Can they?
My husband went to seminary 8ish years ago. I was a pretty new Christian. All that arrogance among his classmates was shocking to us. Sad to see that this is a place where we are raising some of our world’s next pastors.
Very brave of you to write this, and very dead-on! Thank you!

Rebekah January 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm

This is exactly the reason I’m taking a three-month break from doing Bible studies or reading Christian books. I need to hear and experience God for myself…not through someone else’s filter. I need to know that no theological box can contain Him.

John January 15, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I recently thought to myself how I’m becoming a little more humble than I once was. My next thought was, ‘wait, I must not be getting humbler, if I think I am. That’s not how it works’. “Can humility and that much confidence in one’s own understanding of things exist in the same place?” Maybe that’s what I’m feeling. All I know is the more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know and Lord, thank you for letting me be here.

Ann January 16, 2013 at 11:21 pm

I think you’re pretty brilliant.

And I’m laughing about this is scaaaaary.
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Shanan January 17, 2013 at 7:23 am

Very well done. Stay away from the loud and never wrong is good advice for many things. God speaks most to me when things are very quiet. I feel just as close to God, alone on a hike than i do in a church full of people. On another note, when I was a kid I used to think that the Beatles were singin the ” the girl with colitis goes by” instead of ” the girl with kaleidoscope eyes”. Good grief, how did I even know the word colitis??

Misti Ridiculous January 17, 2013 at 8:41 am

This is beautiful Heather. I too, often pause and look around in disbelief at all of the noise disguised as the word of God. Thank you for your words. Sing out, sister!

PsychMamma January 17, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Yes, yes, YES!!

Wonderfully said. Have you read “The Singer Trilogy?” I think you would like it.

Also: I used to think Toto was singing “There’s nothing that a hundred men from Mars could ever do” instead of “a hundred men OR MORE.” Ha!
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