Enough To Let Me Go

I’ve been thinking about some of this stuff a lot lately. It has a lot to do with
God and how He loves us and how we try to love Him and each other.

I think a lot of our unhealthy ways of relating to each other have a lot to do with our unhealthy ways of views of God and how those views inform how we relate to Him. We then relate to other people how we think God relates to us. At least it often works that way.

This was honestly going to be a post on Facebook but it got too long.

Fear and guilt really are poor motivators. I can sometimes use them to change behaviors, but crushing people’s spirits into the shape I want, makes both them and me less human. Even worse, I take on part of the enemy’s work: accusing.

As long as sin has been around most people have known there’s something wrong with them.

I know. I know it well.

But simply being aware of my depravity did nothing to change my heart. That awareness only increased my burden, as I tried and mostly failed to do what I was supposed to do.

It took a force much bigger than laws and guilt to change me: it took Love incarnate.

Yes. It took relentless, terrifying, scandalous, humble, servant, sacrificial, love to break and began to remake me.

God loved me before I loved Him and that’s what actually started conforming me to Christ’s image, not me knowing I was a bad person. I want to give that to people. Free love.

No stipulations.

Because love with stipulations isn’t love. It’s manipulation.

Love is instead, much more like breathing, as Jon Foreman, frontman of Switchfoot, and my songwriting hero, wrote in this song.

You breathe it in and let it go.
Every breath you take is not yours to own.
It’s not yours to hold.

Do you love me enough to let me go?

-switchfoot

If you suck in two lungs full of air and hold your breath for long enough, you’ll soon discover that while you may have taken a breath, it doesn’t mean you’re breathing. It’s only when you engage in the whole process of taking and releasing breaths that you actually get to experience the good that breathing does for you.

It’s the same way with love. You might receive love from those around you, but trying to hold all of it inside you doesn’t work. You either release it to others or you start losing your ability to receive the life that comes from breathing.

And furthermore, trying to love someone while attaching stipulations to it is a bit like trying to survive only on shallow breaths. It’s like lacking the faith to believe that if you completely release a breath, there won’t be more air for you to inhale.

You can sort of survive on it, and it kind of looks and feels like the real thing, and it might feel safer, but eventually you’ll notice it wearing you down. It’s just not healthy. And the people around you notice it, and feel ill at ease, hoping you’ll learn to breathe properly and get the oxygen you need.

Clearly “loving” people this way, has similar effects. It goes through some of the same motions, but the longer this “strings attached” love goes on, the clearer it becomes to everyone involved, that the relationship isn’t thriving. It’s taking short shallow breaths and showing some signs of life, but it’s far from thriving.

I think God knew all of this stuff when He made us and that’s why He gives us the choice to love Him. He doesn’t manipulate us to scare us, or play mind games with us to try to get us to love Him. He just loves us. For free.

He sent Jesus to show us that and put into motion a Kingdom where that and other beautiful things are the reality, instead of things like fear and control that the devil’s been suggesting to us for a long time now.

When we use those old tactics to “love” people and “make them behave,” people around us are sometimes duped into it thinking it’s tough love. More likely though, they shake their heads and leave, thinking that God’s people too, are in the same business as everyone else, and using the same old methods. “What’s different about them anyway?”

Yes indeed. What is, if we resort to that?

But when we love people with the love God showed us, we show others a new reality and a little taste of the perfection that will one day be when our King returns to set up His kingdom and make all things new.

I’m relieved and grateful that God’s been patient with me because I find it really hard to love like He does. I like to make sure my love isn’t being wasted on ungrateful jerks. But He keeps showing me that I’m no better than anyone else, and I think my heart is slowly becoming softer and more
like His.

I hope that’s a reality for all of because apparently that’s a big way God plans to establish His kingdom in the here and now:

through us channeling His love to others who are thirsty for something different.

Something that doesn’t add to an already heavy yoke of sin and guilt, but instead gives the abundant life it promises.

Something that works a lot like breathing.

Something called love.

“If Pain Produces Harmony . . .” – Songs About Suffering

There’s something really special about songs that are written about the difficult times in life. Something really beautiful in the human spirit comes out through them. Maybe it’s because the heart is more vulnerable then. There’s less concern about what other people think, and more concern about just being honest. I like honest songs.

The reason I like them so much is because it’s often a real struggle for me to be that honest with myself, much less other people, when I’m going through something tough. I admire people that have the guts to put that into a song. To put the heart out there for everyone to see, even after it’s been ripped out, is not an easy thing to do.

Here are two of my favorite songs about struggle the struggle in the human experience:

In the first one, there’s a lot of beautiful imagery about the pain in our lives producing harmony with the people around us. We all experience pain, and that pain helps us identify with other people. But there’s something else involved. God takes all the ugliness and pain we experience in life and actually makes a beautiful piece of art out of it.

Abandon Kansas is an alternative group from nearby Wichita, Kansas. I think that’s neat.

Where Else Can We Go” – Abandon Kansas

If pain produces harmony, we all have a note.

If God conducts the symphony, no one sings alone.

There’s no easy answer when the question starts with “Why?” but

Where else can we go? Where else can we go?

Where else can we go?

 

I’ve walked through the valley, I’ve seen enough death

Can anyone hear me? Am I wasting breath?

 

There’s help I have prayed for, but relief never comes.

I’ve cursed at the sky ’til I can’t feel my lungs.

Then somewhere in the distance a wave of sound rings.

Melodies I’ve never heard, but somehow I know all the words,

And I can’t help but sing.

 

If pain produces harmony, we all have a note.

If God conducts the symphony, no one sings alone.

There’s no easy answer when the question starts with “Why?” but

Where else can we go? Where else can we go?

Where else can we go? 

The second one, surprise, surprise, is from another alternative group, Switchfoot. I don’t know how Jon Foreman does it, but he has a way of putting in writing so many of the things inside my own heart. I don’t know of another songwriter who has done that more consistently. A lot of his songs touch something deep inside me that’s difficult to put into words. I think it’s the honesty thing again. There’s just no pretending with him. The man wears his heart on his sleeve and I appreciate that tremendously.

The song “Sing It Out” also deals with God making music out of the ugliness in our lives. It talks about when life seems to be completely wrecked, He can “Take what is left of me. Make it a melody.” When I think of how badly I’ve messed up my life sometimes, even after I’ve called Jesus, the Lord of my life, the idea that God takes the twisted wreckage of our lives, and can still work masterpieces out of us, is nothing short of miraculous.

Something else amazing happens in the bridge of the song. When I’ve given up and let God take over, I can actually “fall in love, with the ones that run me through.” When I’ve owned up to my own brokenness, even the people that are partially responsible for  the havoc in my  life can receive love and forgiveness. That also, is something only the supernatural can explain.

It’s also interesting in the bridge that he uses the phrase, “My world is a lie, that’s come true.” No one. I repeat, no one can begin to understand God’s grace unless they’ve experienced it themselves. That’s part of the mystery. Even we who have, cannot fully explain this crazy idea of a God that can give us enough grace to have joy in the worst of circumstances.

There’s a lot more in this song but those are some of the themes I chose to explore.

I love the way the music in this song starts with haunting agony, basically a brooding bass solo with occasional washes of foreboding guitar creating a bleak backdrop for Jon’s forlorn voice. The song continues to build all the way up through the bridge until it’s all unleashed into a heart-rending, desperate cry the last time through the chorus. As the cry to God ends, the final measures of the song give way to some resolution and hope as strings take over and fade out.

“Sing It Out” –Switchfoot

I’m on the run

I’m on the ropes this time

Where is my song?

I’ve lost the song of my soul tonight

 

Sing it out

Sing it out

Take what is left of me

Make it a melody

Sing it out

Sing out loud

I can’t find the words to sing

You be my remedy

My song, my song

I’ll sing with what’s left of me

 

Where is the sun?

Feel like a ghost this time

Where have you gone?

I need your breath in my lungs tonight

 

Sing it out

Sing it out

Take what is left of me

Make it a melody

Sing it out

Sing out loud

I can’t find the words to sing

You be my remedy

My song, my song

I’ll sing with what’s left of me

 

I’m holding on

I’m holding on to you

My world is wrong

My world is a lie that’s come true

And I fall in love with the ones that run me through

When all along, all I need is you

 

Sing it out

Sing it out

Take what is left of me

Make it a melody

Sing it out

Sing out loud

I can’t find the words to sing

Come be my remedy

My song, my song

My song

I’ll sing with what’s left of me

Call me a melancholy but, I’m a real fan of these types of songs. Maybe it’s because the human element is so obvious in all of them. Others include Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” (an epic seventeen and half minute choral piece depicting David’s sorrow for Absalom’s death), Jars of Clay’s “Silence,” and “Surely He Hath Born Our Griefs” and “Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart/Behold and See if There Be Any Sorrow” from Handel’s Messiah. I’m also reading quite a few of the Psalms right now, which have a lot of similar content in them.

What are some of your favorite “suffering/struggle” songs? Let’s discuss them in the comments.