A few days ago, I re-stumbled across “Southern Gothic” by Dan Tyminski. In the song he cries out “With a church on every corner why does heaven feel so far away?” The question voices an ugly dissonant truth about the church in America. Church in the broader culture should be acting God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven,” but for all the churches nothing seems to be different.
Last weekend I received a call from a young lady I had not heard from in half a decade or more. I taught the youth group at church where she met John and was at their wedding. I didn’t know a few years into their marriage he committed adultery. She felt God called her, despite her wishes, to stay and forgive. She returned evil with good of forgiveness and reconciliation. After rebuilding trust, they started having kids. While pregnant with their second, it happened again – and he wanted a divorce.
“Why?” she asked.
The song continues, “This town’s got the good Lord shakin’ his head / Lookin’ down thinking we ain’t heard a word he said / A word he said”
Certainly, we can look at John and say, “he hasn’t heard a word,” but we would be missing God’s word to each of us. The call to follow Christ at all costs. She was like Christ amid suffering. She paid the price and brought heaven down to be at the doorstep of one who doesn’t deserve it.
Heaven came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ who took up the cross to bear our betrayal against him. The church brings heaven to earth when its people, like Christ, bear up the evil of the world in themselves by responding to evil with good.
The church is soft. In becoming a safe place we ceased to be a good place. We chose loving the self first and boundaries over self-sacrifice and turning the other cheek. The Christian walk has become indifferentiable from someone trying to live kindly. We are so fixated on pursuing dreams, feeling good, and being happy that we forget the cross is our hope.
I talked in my previous posting about being caught up in these dreams of grand adventures and perfect Disney movie lives. This is more of a revealing of my own internal dreams than a specific critique of culture. I often get caught up in the perfect moments. The right lighting, mood, events, and words said at just the right time.
Not only that, but I am a philosopher at heart and have this constant yearning to find meaning in events. Though it more comes from a heart that is trying to figure out its own path in a world that has yet to be made right, it is still searching. I want to know that what is done is significant and has meaning. Whatever meaning means.
You cannot find the solution to a problem on the same level that the problem is found or created. The answer to my own philosophical nightmare of meaning and significance I found in the very lofty views and words of Luke Bryan from two of his popular songs, “rain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky… rain is a good thing” and “A huntin, fishin, and lovin everyday that’s the prayer that a country boy prays”
The lyrics from these two songs are good examples of how connected to life that country music is. Country singers always sing about what is tangible. What they see. What they feel in response to specific things, like a girls smile or hair. There are no complicated metaphors or layered meanings within meanings. There are no hints and jabs from other parts of culture. There is a country boy or girl singing about what they see, touch, taste and know. And it is beautiful.
The same could be said for a lot of LA culture. The artisans of LA create from what they see hear and touch. Though there may be a bit more meaning, you cannot escape the direct connection from the lives that they live.
This is why I listen to country. Because although I am always caught in the dream of a tomorrow that will never come. Even though I want to create these extravagant adventures and believe in a love story worth sharing. Really life is simple, and I love the simplicity, but I need help staying grounded. So hand me the gluten free beer and the rustic guitar and lets talk about the cheese in the fridge, the mice in the barn, dust on our boots, and the sun on her hair.
Hollywood produces a steady stream of movies that portray stories of fantasmagical proportions. Heroes such as James Bond and Captain America are both larger than life, but are portrayed in a very rapid carefully strung together story line with a seemingly endless rising action. Even true to life stories are cut and edited to grip the audience. Even the most mundane become spectacular.
A simple father becomes a hero to find his son. A child becomes a king. Several ordinary men save a country. Most significantly love is built up to almost scripted perfection. Though some hero stories are based on real life, and some real life love stories are worthy of the big screen, these are few and far between, and are, in actual life, more filled with the mundane than the spectacular.
In real life we eat pizza, cook soup, walk past stores, sleep, clean, drive, make coffee, and work for most of our lives. Love is involved in simple flowers, chocolates, a smile, a clean dish, a folded article of clothing, a short walk and a hand picked flower, kisses on the cheek, and even a slice of cheese.
Love can be very simple. All of the large plans, carefully thought out trips, and adventures lose their luster if we cannot say I love with the very things that we touch and do every day. And that is why, I love country music.