I, like everyone else, enjoy music very much. I have certain songs that I listen to over and over again and the repetition doesn’t make my wife very happy. But this post isn’t about the nature of music (if you want a little of that, I suggest Alan Bloom’s piece). This post is about a song that I listen to once awhile during lent. I will explain its message to me and hopefully it could be something you could use.
Christian songs are great tools for prayer and reflection, but I find that some secular songs can do the same thing. One of these songs is called I’m the Only One by Melissa Etheridge. For those who are unfamiliar with the song, here is the video.
When I hear this song, I imagine that it is God who is singing this to his beloved child and the first thing that comes to mind is Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. In both instances, God is the ever-yearning lover that constantly reminds the human person that there is no happiness and fulfillment in life without Him.
God Is Ever Calling:
Please baby can’t you see
My mind’s a burnin’ hell
I got razors a rippin’ and tearin’ and strippin’
My heart apart as well
The first four lines of the lyrics is an expression of angst and sorrow. Now, as a theologian, I’m aware of the problems that can arise from attributing emotions to God, but let us forget that for a moment and turn to the story of the prodigal son. We are told that young son, returning with sorrow after having spent all his inheritance, finds his father waiting anxiously for his return. God, like the father of the prodigal son, is filled with angst and sorrow when we, his beloved children, stray far from him, and he yearns nothing more than for us to return to his love.
How Do We Abandon God?
Tonight you told me
That you ache for something new
And some other woman is lookin’ like something
That might be good for you
The next four lines of the lyrics read just like our daily lives. We begin to replace God in our lives with other things to the point that we no longer have any time for God. We justify these replacements by saying that they are important. Indeed, a cheating husband always sees his mistress as something better and justifies his behavior by whatever reason he must to overcome the idea that it is wrong. We don’t necessarily have to commit a terrible act such as marital infidelity to abandon God, but we could do things like lie, gossip, or even act selfishly.
Please baby can’t you see
I’m trying to explain
I’ve been here before and I’m locking the door
And I’m not going back again
The next four lines act like a warning to us. To accept or reject a lover that is openly welcoming us is of course our decision, but our decisions have consequences. When we choose to love someone who loves us, we therefore choose to douse ourselves with that love. However, if we choose to reject the love that is offered to us, then naturally we do not receive such love. And if God is Love and love unceasing, then to reject his love is our own decision, but then we are left to live without love…a very terrifying existence.
Her eyes and arms and skin won’t make
it go away
You’ll wake up tomorrow and wrestle the sorrow
That holds you down today
These next four lines are also words of caution: sin is only fake happiness. The husband that cheats on his wife mistakes lust for love and temporary satisfaction for lasting joy. We often mistake mundane pleasures as eternal happiness. We often settle for things that give us immediate release and then having to search once again after the release for another sort of excitement. We need to become better at discerning what is truly good for us, what is true happiness, as opposed to that which only satisfies our seeming needs but leaves us always yearning for something else after the excitement is over.
The Source of Joy
Go on and hold her till the screaming is gone
Go on believe her when she tells you
But I’m the only one
Who’ll walk across the fire for you
I’m the only one
Who’ll drown in my desire for you
It’s only fear that makes you run
The demons that you’re hiding from
When all your promises are gone
I’m the only one
The chorus reads like lines out of the Biblical text: there is someone who is willing to do the craziest of things out of love for us. If there is someone who is willing to “walk across the fire” or “drown in my desire” for us, we can either conclude that the person genuinely does love us or that he is crazy, or that there is a little bit of crazy in love =) But as Jesus tells us, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. Yet, Jesus was not just all talk about love; he showed it. He freely and willingly laid down his life for our own sake. The chorus then tell us that the beloved runs from the lover out of fear. So why do we run from God? Fear. We run away from things because we are afraid. It begins when we are very young, like our first encounter with the neighbor’s dog that sends us literally running, and it continues to grow with us and spreads to other areas of our lives. We start running away from relationships, work, ourselves, and ultimately God. But unlike the little boy that couldn’t help his reaction to the dog, we can help our reaction to things in our lives. We can choose to not run away. We can choose to deal with our problems head on. What then is our fear?