13 January, 2007

Engaging God: Another Christian Song

I was listening to this one on the way to a baby shower today. And I was in one of my bluer moods. It was one of those times that I really wanted to be picked up and carried in worship to a sight of the Father. "I Still Believe" by Jeremy Camp came on the radio.

I've sung this song dozens of times, and I never heard it this way, but today I did. The song promised to deal with exactly where I was, and but 2 lines of the song threw me. We'll see what you think.

Scattered words and empty thoughts
seem to pour from my heart.
I've never felt so torn before.
Seems I don't know where to start.
But it's now that I feel Your grace fall like rain
From ev'ry fingertip, washing away my pain


The first two lines drew me in. The next two were a little overstated for my current minor funk, but I was with them. Then I sang the last two lines.

Ummm.

Hmmm.

I think we all know that we don't feel God's grace falling like rain from His every fingertip every time we get confused. And I have almost never felt God wash away my pain. Maybe that's just me, but I don't see this as a promise anywhere in scripture, nor many places in my experience. Be that as it may, though, this is not what stood out to me. He seemed to call grace something that we should feel.

God's grace is not a feeling we have.

God's grace is an act of God's will.

I can feel the power of His acts of grace, and I guess that's what the songwriter meant, but the oddness of the phrase took all the power from the song for me. It almost leads me to imagine that having the feeling of God's grace washing away my pain is common and more than that, a dependable, reliable sign of God's love to me.

If he is saying that God washes away our pain, then he's singing ill fantasy, and should be corrected.

If he's saying that we can know we've had an experience of God because we feel His grace, and feel our pain wash away, then he's deceiving someone. No feeling reliably proves that we have had an experience with God. Feelings come to believers and non-believers alike - and often the stronger feelings of spiritual connection come to non-believers.

Matt 13:20 & 21
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.


It almost seems like this song is encouraging people to seek out rain to support their shallow roots.

God doesn't work like that.

'Cause I still believe in Your faithfullness.
'Cause I still believe in Your truth.
'Cause I still believe in Your holy Word.
Even when I don't see, I still believe


Even the chorus says that God doesn't work like that. I love this. In fact, aside from the repeat of the same 2 lines in later verses, the rest of the song is great. He just seems to say that not seeing God is OK, as long as he can feel God. This is weak.

Though the questions still fog up my mind
with promises I still seem to bear,
Or even when answers slowly unwind,
It's my heart I see you prepare.
But it's now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From ev'ry fingertip, washing away my pain.

'Cause I still believe in Your faithfullness.
'Cause I still believe in Your truth.
'Cause I still believe in Your holy Word.
Even when I don't see, I still believe.

Well, the only place I can go is into Your arms
Where I throw to You my feeble prayers.
Well, in brokenness I can see that this was Your will for me.
Help me to know that You are near, yeah,

'Cause I still believe in Your faithfullness.
'Cause I still believe in Your truth.
'Cause I still believe in Your holy Word.
Even when I don't see, I still believe.

'Cause I still believe
'Cause I still believe
'Cause I still believe
'Cause I still believe
I still believe.


So, if the bulk of the song is so great, and the two lines twice repeated are only doubtfully worrisome, why mention it at all?

I have been reading Jonathon Edwards' "On Religious Affections," and he is dealing therein with a problem that I believe we face. We do not teach people well whether they are saved, or whether they are merely relieved. Are they awed and amazed by God's power, or are they in love with Him? Are they happy to receive His blessings and salvation or are they changed at the core by the love of His holiness?

Edwards repeats an illustration over and over in his work. Do they see the honey of God's grace, and love its texture, sheen and color, or have they tasted it? If they have not tasted it, it does not matter how much they love it - it is not spiritual love.

I have been working on a post about whether we can please God, to be quickly followed by another about those who falsely believe they are pleasing God. I have thrown away 2 versions of the first post already. (Hence my "long" silence.) The current rewrite is showing some promise. This song seemed to take me past my posts, to the heart of the matter, so I pushed this post to the front of the queue.

I can feel God's grace pouring down like rain for all the wrong reasons, or for all the right ones. Let's labor to enter into the right rest.

4 comments:

Milly said...

I guess I have never fallen into “Look how great God is, see I’m smiling” thing. The guys that would to try to get us to go to the corner of the Mini Mart and pray with them on a Saturday night had that smile. I work with a guy with that smile, I love him, he’s a great guy but the bottom line is that the stuff in some of the songs are fluff and most of us have troubles. God never promised me a roses He did allow weeds and thorns then He gave me His word to rest on. I have Had comfort from Him when I was on my knees in sorrow and forgiveness when up to me ears in sin. He doesn’t say that Kevin and Milly will have a great day because He have rained grace on them.

Hope you had fun at the baby shower. I had a great time at a baby shower that was for men and women. Then again the funny guy was the funeral director, the guy had some stories.

codepoke said...

The guys that would to try to get us to go to the corner of the Mini Mart and pray with them on a Saturday night had that smile.

What a picture. :-(

Yeah. I tried for years to make that smile convincing. There's no truth or spirit there.

Hope you had fun at the baby shower.

Haha.

My coworker is a Mustang-driving, motorcycle riding, purple hair-wearing, loud kind of a highly feminine tomboy. She's a lot of fun.

Today, she was a mommy to be.

I love the transformation. It happens to all of us, though it seems to be a little slower for us daddies. I love people. We are such odd little beasties. I spent time with probably a dozen people, and enjoyed all of them, and I was in party mode - all funny stories all the time. I often wonder if I get boorish when I'm like that, but I can't help it. I don't like to watch the action, when I can be a part of it.

If I ever learn to dance, it will be because I a) took lessons, and b) someone else was having fun and I was on the sidelines. I can't stand that. But I won't step out there unless I know I'll only shame myself in ways I mean to.

Then again the funny guy was the funeral director, the guy had some stories.

Can't top that. :-)

Milly said...

I'd love to take dance lessons. I think the only time I ever looked very good on the dance floor was when the college librarian’s husband was leading me in the two step. I ballroom danced with strangers on a New Years Eve once and danced with the husband a time or two but I’ve always needed a good leader.

The thing about the smile is that if it looks fake and is fake they know it. If you’re real then they know it.

I’m glad you had a good time I’d love to see Codepoke at a party. Who know maybe some day I’ll have the funds to throw one and fly ya’all in or to Hawaii where there isn’t a huge ice storm.

Kansas Bob said...

I can identify with this statement:

"It was one of those times that I really wanted to be picked up and carried in worship to a sight of the Father."

When I hurt worship is one of the few things that can carry me.