(On the eve of the release of the first new song from my upcoming record, I thought I’d get this last blog reposted from a series I wrote about last year’s single, “More Like Falling In Love”. Here are the links to parts 1, 2, and 3.)
…it’s like I’m falling in love, love, love – deeper and deeper it was love that made me a believer in more than a name, a faith, a creed falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me
“Therefore… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12
I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog series that I’ve gotten emails and notes – many of them respectful and thoughtful (some less so than others ;- ) – from those who have had concerns about the meaning of some of the lyrics in my song “More Like Falling In Love”. And though I run the risk of seeming defensive, I thought it might be good to let some recent correspondence guide our conversation for this last blog about the subject.
The two latest comments I received were kindly expressed by people whose concerns, interestingly, were polar opposites – which I suppose can be expected if we understand truth is more often than not paradoxical – it’s DNA made up of seemingly contradictory ideas (the greatest is the least, you lay down your life to find it, work out your salvation… it’s God who works in you…, etc.). The truth is black and white, and sometimes even seems frustratingly gray, or sometimes even orange, for that matter. (I’m not talking about relativism here, so don’t get nervous.)
On the one hand there is the email from a man who was concerned that I’m downplaying the believer’s role in the saving/sanctifying work of God in our lives. The line that says, “it’s more like losing my heart than giving my allegiance” is the real stickler for him. (Okay, maybe I’ll get just a little defensive for a moment and point out that I’m not saying that we don’t give our allegiance, but rather that it’s more like losing our heart to a Person than it is giving allegiance to an ideology of propositional truths. If the relationship is in place, a passionate allegiance will surely follow. Blood is thicker than water, right?) I imagine his concern is that I’m shortchanging the cost of discipleship by encouraging believers to do too little in the “working out of their salvation with fear and trembling…” I mean, c’mon—you can’t just sit there and do nothing, right?
On the other hand was the two page hand written note from the woman who is concerned that I give us too much to do and am shortchanging God’s role by making too big a deal of our role in the work where I write “falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me”. Her read on this lyric is that I’ve put the ball of salvation/sanctification in our court, implying that it was my willful act of falling in love that brought about the change in me, that it’s up to me to somehow manufacture transformation by mustering up enough love and devotion for God when the scripture clearly tells us “… it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
I guess it just goes to show you can’t please everybody.
But they both make a good point, and I’m grateful that they’re listening—what an honor to have someone engage a song lyric on that level—and a pop song no less! I suppose the truth is that there is a real tension between these two ideas, and my lyric—like myself—is probably caught somewhere in the middle. Maybe that I’ve gotten both kinds of emails is a sign that I was on the right track (or perhaps it reveals a failure on my part as the writer to write with clarity… nah, I prefer the former.) 🙂 (And that will be my last smiley face.)
I will confess that I have passionately believed in the role that I’m responsible to play in God’s work in my life. But as I’ve gotten older, I also confess that I’ve become just as passionate about the conviction that it’s all grace, all a gift, that even the ability to receive it is a gift, and that my insufficiency can only be met and answered by God’s all sufficiency. And yet, and yet…
We feel the tension—the great mystery of God’s sovereignty and the holy freedom of free will he bestows upon us: the freedom to honor the gift giver or do terrible, terrible atrocities with the freedom that he sovereignly gives us. It’s enough to make the head spin or the scalp go cold. I’m with Job: “Surely I spoke of things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3)
But even if I’m afraid of diving into the deep end of this great mystery, I think I can at least dip my toe in the shallow end by reflecting on the idea of how “falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me.”
There is a sense in which the action of falling in love is my own, I suppose. I remember when I first saw Taya, my wife, and the way she caught my eye and so absolutely captured my attention. We were both on a mission trip with our youth groups in our senior year of high school. She was from Bellingham, WA and I was from Mankato, MN. Our youth groups converged in Chicago as we partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build housing for the poor there. It was a grand adventure and each night we would gather to share our experiences of the day. And here was this lovely young woman who spoke with such depth, passion, and authority! She was lit on fire with her love for the Lord and when she would share, her words were like little sparks that would set flame to anyone who let themselves be touched by them. I sought this girl out. It was an act of my will to get to know this girl. I found excuses to engage her in conversation and eventually even got her address and phone number (this was before the days of email, youngsters).
I remember a pastor friend of mine talking about how he met his wife, what it was like when he first saw her across the room, and how he then moved towards her to try to make contact. He was always convinced that it was he who initiated the conversation that led to their relationship, but it wasn’t until years later that he realized that he saw her across the room because she wanted to be seen by him. What humble grace to allow him to think all those years that he was the sole initiator of the relationship! What generosity to invite him to play such a dignified part in their meeting when she knew what she was doing all along.
I remember talking with another pastor friend of mine once as we wondered about when the moment of salvation actually happens—does it happen after you go to the altar and pray the magic prayer? Or did it happen before the prayer when you were in your seat and the Holy Spirit first quickened the words of the gospel in your heart and you decided to respond? Or did it happen earlier that day when something in you prompted you go to church and you obeyed that instinct? Or did it happen somewhere before the beginning of time at the foundations of the earth? Such a delightful mystery—it should leave us humbled and grateful to be recipients of such grace. It should ignite a passion in us to work toward being better disciples of the Author and Finisher of our faith. It should make us want to both give more of our lives and receive more Life, to work out our salvation, trusting that it’s God who is at work.
No matter how it all went down, the creeds—the intellectualization of it—came after the fact. But at the moment of truth when my heart first surrendered to what the Lord had been doing in me all along, it was love—love that I felt and knew for the first time, love that changed me from the inside out, love that changes me still and is leading me home.