02 November 2006

Shiny Happy People

I have a thing about shiny, happy Christians. Now, I'm a Christian. Even a Lutheran, the denomination that emphasizes grace--God did it all for us--over works--we have to earn it. ("It" being salvation, heaven, all that good stuff. I'm such the theologian, aren't I?)


An innate suspiciousness overtakes me when people in general and Christians in particular want to wrap everything up in a neat little package. Because life isn't a neat little package. Christianity is not a neat little package, no matter what the "4 Spiritual Laws" or earnest young evangelicals tell you.

This little rant comes to you courtesy of a comment that one person made in a Bible Study over the weekend. What we were talking about reminded me of a Rich Mullins song, "Hard to Get." Unfortunately, when I tried to quote the lyrics, I couldn't remember the key ones, only the bridge, which is "I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears./Words of shame and doubt, blame and regret./I can't see where you're leading me/Unless you've led me here"

And I tried to make the point that I thought the song (in its entirety) makes, which is that you can have faith and knowledge, but when you're going through bad times, what you really want is some assurance that God cares. Not just that God exists, but that God is "engaged and active" (terms mentioned in the study). I don't think I said it that well, actually, so perhaps the next comment was somewhat justified.

"But in the song, it turns out that it's okay, right?" I kind of said, yeah, it turns out okay. But something felt wrong about saying that. When I got home and checked the lyrics, I knew why. Because the song does not turn out okay, in the sense that the singer is shiny and happy at the end. A lot of Christian music does end that way. But not this one. The lyrics come through to an understanding, but you know that the pain is still there, the voices, the hurt.

So anyway, here is the whole lyric. Tell me what you think. Does everything turn out okay?

Hard to Get
(by Rich Mullins)

You who live in heaven
Hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth
Who are afraid of being left by those we love
And who get hardened by the hurt

Do you remember when you lived down here where we all scrape
To find the faith to ask for daily bread
Did you forget about us after you had flown away
Well I memorized every word you said
Still I'm so scared, I'm holding my breath
While you're up there just playing hard to get

You who live in radiance
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin
We have a love that's not as patient as yours was
Still we do love now and then

Did you ever know loneliness?
Did you ever know need?
Do you remember just how long a night can get
When you are barely holding on
And your friends fall asleep
And don't see the blood that's running in your sweat?
Will those who mourn be left uncomforted
While you're up there just playing hard to get?

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained
And I know that I am only lashing out
At the one who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know

Is if you who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret
I can't see how you're leading me unless you've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so you've been here all along I guess
It's just your ways and you are just plain hard to get.

I want to say a little more about this, but I have to go pick up Katrina.


Joy said...

I found your post just by googling RIch Mullin's lyrics (I couldn't remember from which song they came.) I agree with you. And there is something of the lostness, the hesistancy of belief, and yet the final comlete trust that is more soothing than all the "Allrighokayuhuhamen" songs. "Hard to Get" describes the life I live in Christ more realisticly. And I remember that this is what faith is, not being sure of what we see but what we hope for. If we don't live in the incompleteness of life now, why would we look forward to a time when rough places become plane or when the imperfect disappears and we see clearly. So thanks for blogging. And if it makes you feel any better, there is another in Lexington, Kentucky who is not a shiny, happy Christian. I'm just a joyful one.

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Joy! One of the reasons I love Rich Mullins is that he doesn't gloss over the hard parts of life, and yet still conveys the joy, beauty, and hope of God and creation.