The Profound Powerless of Mondo Cozmo’s “Shine”

I’m still a sucker for a heart on its sleeve…

(and a good hook…)

I stumbled across this song a few months ago, back in the spring. I was listening to some Spotify “New Music” playlist, and all of a sudden I heard familiar-but-new sounds: echoes of The Verve and other Brit Pop bands that I’ve always loved.

And then the lyrics started:

Stick with me Jesus through the coming storm,
I’ve come to you in search of something I have lost
Shine down a light on me and show a path
I promise you I will return if you take me back…

Did he just say, “Jesus”? Okay, now I’m really interested…

I confess: I’m not above getting pretty excited whenever I hear someone flirting with the powerful intersection of art and faith. I get even more pumped when I hear someone drop Jesus’ name with some kind of sincerity.

So now I’m definitely hooked.

But then the chorus took me back a bit:

Let ’em get high, let ’em get stoned,
Everything will be alright if you let it go…

Hmmmmm….

So now I’m not so sure.

But the verse lyrics! Still so sincere, so out there (and again with the Jesus!)

My friends are so alone and it breaks my heart
My friends don’t understand we are all lost
Shine down a light on them and show a path
I promise you they will return if you take ’em back

And finally, verse 3:

Come with me Mary through these modern lines
Stick with me Jesus til the end of time
Shine down a light on me and let me know
And take me in your arms and never let me go…

Seriously; what am I supposed to do with this?

When the record came out, I listened, and quickly got taken in. The whole thing really paid off the taste that was “Shine,” with more heart, and vulnerability and a lyrical/musical references and touchpoints that I could easily recognize and resonate with.

But, again… what is up with this tune?

Well, though I believe in lyrical mystery, and I affirm the rights of artists to hold their cards close to their chests, something hit me hard on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks back, and so I’m going offer up my interpretation of this tune.

I had preached that morning on “Powerlessness“, and what it meant to surrender our desire to control our environment and our lives.

And then I remembered that a huge part of our lives and our environment is people.

Spouses. Family. Children. Co-Workers.

Friends.

Spouses, family members, children, co-workers, friends, etc. who might choose to “get high”, or who might choose to do any number of things that we really wish they wouldn’t do.

And we are powerless to stop them. (Human beings have this sticky way of eluding our efforts to control them.)

When we are confronted with this ultimate test of our desire to control, we really have to choose:

Am I willing to be powerless over the people who are (a) supremely important to me and yet (b) may make choices (in fact, they usually DO make choices) that at the very least I may disagree with, and at most may be harmful?

It sounds impossible but there is a way out, and here’s the deal:

It’s not simple, but it’s easy. 

We can choose to (a) love them, and (b) cling to our faith.

One of the most powerful ideas I cling to is that *God is infinitely more invested in my friends/family/co-workers/church than I am. *

God loves them more than I ever could.

And that means that I can surrender them. I can be powerless over them…

… And “let it go.”

 

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Peace and blessings…

+eric

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… Like a Hurricane

Recently, I made a mistake.

A big one.

Those are enough details for now, but it left me thinking about love and forgiveness.

Now, my wife is not perfect, but repeatedly I’ve been blown away, overwhelmed, by her ability to forgive and love me in spite of my faults. She is a fierce lover, and when she is loyal, she is loyal. 

It’s a withering love. And it’s difficult to stand.

In the midst of this, I realized that there is something inside of me that absolutely wants to flee this kind of love. I have a hunch I’m not the only one. I have a theory that this condition is more human than I’d like to admit.

What is it inside of us that makes us flee this kind of acceptance?

It’s obviously similar to the love that Christ has for us/me. To look into the face of a love that is totally accepting and forgiving is excruciating sometimes. We want to hide and run because of all the bad that we have done, but there is something there that says we must stand in it and take it, like a fierce rainstorm.

That’s what love is. That’s what love can be… A hurricane. 

Love him, or hate him, Saint Paul must have learned to stand in that hurricane. Here was a man who had people—innocent people—killed, and then later sought those people out in community, as one of them. Moreover, before that he had to stand in the face of Jesus and accept that love.

He could stand in the face of that storm. He was no longer a man with blood on his hands, with the lives of men, women, and children (!) on his conscience. He was simply a man who was now “In Christ”, and was inviting others to experience this same storm.

I know I’m not naturally wired for it. It makes me want to hide, to go numb, to retreat.

I guess I’m TRYING to learn to withstand it, but it is difficult.

Musically speaking, not that it is anything like this:

But maybe, it’s a bit like this:

peace

Random Thoughts on Prodigals…

“Why did he let me leave in the first place?”

I wonder if the son who fled—we know him as the Prodigal—ever thought that?

Though I know this story from Luke 15 is (a) a parable, and (b) more about the radical behavior of the Father than it is about the son, nevertheless I found myself thinking about the son this morning.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a good prodigal.

Maybe the best there ever was…

Regardless, two things struck me this morning.

Question #1: Why did the Father let the son leave in the first place? 

Surely He knew better; the Father knew the son’s character better than anyone else. He knew what was going to happen. Do you think the gambling, the women, the lavish spending (probably on the ancient near east’s equivalent of Beats headphones and bad car lease agreements) just happened over night?

The Father knew what was up with His son.

And yet He let him go. Why?

Why not protect everybody from the pain—the hell—that was just around the corner. It would’ve spared so many people so much pain.

I think the Father let him go because He loved him; I think He let him go because He knew that maturity largely comes from making choices and experiencing consequences, as painful as that can be. 

And that, ultimately, only mature, free-choosing people can love. 

Love hurts (yes, Gram/Emmylou/Nazareth/Norah/Keith).

But in order to produce, loving mature human beings, a parent has to risk disobedience. That’s what the Father does, even though it costs everyone something.

But could the son ever learn to love without growth?

Question #2: What About Shame? 

If you remember the story, you know the basics: a son asks his father for his inheritance “early” (“Dad, can you go ahead and die? Yeah that would be great…”), and then takes off spending pretty much everything on those things—the same things that most of us would spend free money on if we were eighteen. He winds up broke, alone, and far away from home, eventually ending up working as a servant, feeding pigs and hungry for their food.

Assume, for just a moment, that in an ancient culture like this one, “honor” and “reputation” are paramount concepts…

“Our Father who lives in the heavens, may Your name be kept holy…”

Assume, for just a moment, that this honor and reputation were visibly represented by a family’s father; it’s his job to guard that honor and defend it…

“Our Father who lives in the heavens, may Your name be kept holy…”

Assume, for just a moment, that this son has succeeded in bringing down shame and dishonor to his family, in particular his father. 

“Our Father who lives in the heavens, may Your name be kept holy…”

Assume, for just a moment, that—rather than keeping his father’s name “special” (“holy”, anyone?)—he has actually succeeded in associating that name with the worst of what humanity can offer…

… cheap, humanity destroying sex

… conspicuous and wasteful consumption

… immoral (or worse yet?) amoral living

… narcissism that doesn’t give a crap about anyone

What does the son do when he hasn’t kept his father’s name holy?

What does he do with that shame? 

But there’s something about the father…

I think shame is cyclical: we shame others out of the shame we feel.

We cast guilt onto others because of the hidden guilt we carry around in us.

But what if you feel no shame? 

Or rather, what if you’ve decided to break the cycle of shame inside you forever by experiencing the most shameful thing you can imagine?

How about a public death?

… an execution?

… as an innocent?

… as a terrorist?

When you know the worst of what shame and guilt can do, and you embrace it, it has lost its power. 

And you’ve broken the cycle.

This Father knows suffering; He will know shame; He will know rejection and death…

… and He’s not afraid to embrace it.

Thus, He destroys its power.

It’s no longer part of the equation.

Ultimately, He is not ashamed of the son, because His name cannot be shamed by the son. The son can freely forgive without shame or condemnation because he has broken that perpetual cycle. It’s over, and all that’s left are tears of welcome, hugs, and a big celebration.

That is all…

Well, almost all…

Like it or not, this was the first version that I heard of that song… ah the summer of 76

(p.s. how does that guy sing so high? maybe a combination of the leather pants and facial hair)

What Kind of Deal Is This?

Last week a family in our faith community lost a baby. The baby had come too early, and was born with some chromosomal problems, and after one week, Campbell Joy crossed into eternity. The memorial service was one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever encountered: a small coffin over a grave, friends and family huddled in a cold pouring rain.  A Hollywood director couldn’t have thought up a more apt setting.

Today, some other friends got news that their baby (due in about 5 – 6 weeks) was too small, and may need to be “delivered” (the doctors said, “taken”, but I’m not comfortable with that language). Because the docs are going to wait a week, I have no idea how serious this could be, and my mind goes to the some less-than-optimistic places. I imagined myself having to walk through the loss of this child: what would I say, how could I be there for them in their pain? I thought of all the other ways that we experience loss in this life, and the roads I’ll have to walk through with my friends, regardless of where they are and when it happens.

To a great degree, I think that love actually is defined by our reaction to others’ pain. It certainly is revealed by it, brought into focus. Engagement with someone else’s pain = love. Retreat away from that pain, and you are retreating from love. I like to tell people, “As a pastor, you don’t get paid for the good days; you get paid for the bad ones.”

All of that lead me to the question, “Why do this community thing?”, which really isn’t the right question. The question is, “Why do this love thing?” If all love will — almost by definition — lead to pain, then why do it at all? I started listing out all of the ways we can experience pain in community:

  • Break ups
  • Death
  • Injury
  • Aging
  • Separation
  • Failure
  • Infidelity

All of these things will, nearly inevitably, accompany each relationship. And what can we place on the other side of the equation? What balances out this terrible list? “Life” and “Love”? What does that mean?

I think it means a lot, actually. I think that to the degree we weather the pain of relationships, our love and life expand, grow larger and more abundant. To the degree we retreat away from the pain, we shrink a little, atrophy away, grow dimmer. I believe we were designed as “lovers”, that is, to expand and grow into great engagers of humanity, and do you know why?

Because our Creator is the same way. God shows us the way love and pain works: As the very definition of love, God doesn’t shrink away from pain; he engages it, looks it full in the face, and as he does (or did) that, he shows that love overflows and extends in welcome embrace to the other. Ultimately that dialectical embrace of love and pain spilled over to the person of Jesus the Messiah, who simultaneously engaged our pain and revealed the abundant life we are called to.

Engaging pain is a tough deal, but the expansive, abundant life of love on the other side of the equation more than balances scale.