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July 11, 2020

Song Lyrics and Scripture

By JJ West

I love lyrics. In high school I was THAT girl, who would read the CD jackets from cover to cover, so that I could experience the words of every song on the album. But even before I could read, I would sit in the backseat and belt out the lyrics to almost anything that came on the radio.

Looking back, I am astounded to realize what many 1980’s and 1990’s rock songs were ACTUALLY about. (I genuinely thought “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen was about a woman’s love for food, and I really didn’t know how many musicians sang about drugs.)

I have found that reading the Bible in different stages of my life is somewhat like revisiting something I didn’t fully understand as a child. It hasn’t yielded any discoveries QUITE like those associated with the lyrics from ‘80s and ‘90s rock songs, but I can tell that age and life experience have given me different lenses and deeper, more nuanced connections with Scripture.

Ephesians 1:15-23 has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Paul explains to the Christians at Ephesus that he prays for them to grow in wisdom and faith so that they understand the greatness of God’s power. Verses 17 through 20 say:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Initially, I thought this prayer was about Paul wanting the people to understand how awesome it is to be a Christian. As a young adult trying to discern her purpose, these verses pumped me up. I can remember reading them and thinking, “YES! THIS is what I want! Wisdom and understanding of God’s love and power! Give me these things, God!” I have these verses underlined repeatedly, with many dates written next to them in my Bible. My favorite personal notation is dated 2010, about 2 months before my oldest was born. It says, “This is my prayer for Avery.”

Since that notation, I have lived through the entirety of my thirties, grown from a family of two to a family of five, changed careers, stopped having a career, gone back to my previous career, almost gotten a divorce, met my best friends, and emotionally and spiritually grown into a different person.

Ten years ago, I thought this prayer was about reading my Bible more, memorizing more Scripture, and praying more fervently. Today, I realize this prayer is really about trusting God as I encounter things in life I could never manage on my own. I can’t conjure up wisdom, hope, or understanding just by trying hard enough.

Wisdom comes from heartbreak or failure.
Appreciating hope comes from not having any.
Understanding power comes from being powerless.

Now, this prayer kind of scares me.

I have wisdom in choosing friends because I have had friends break my heart.

I understand hope because I have received the text saying, “The doctors have exhausted their knowledge and efforts. The prognosis is not good. We just have to wait.” And then, we felt the hope blossom as our close friend slowly surpassed all expectations to make a full recovery.

I know the power of forgiveness and the beauty of marriage because my husband and I clawed our way back from the brink of divorce.

I have found myself wrestling with the answers as I ask questions such as:

Do I want my children to experience heartbreak and failure?
Do I want ANYONE to experience hopelessness?
Do I want myself to feel powerless?

No. I don’t WANT any of that.

BUT I DO TRUST GOD.

I trust that as we work through the tough conversations about race in our country, we will gain wisdom. I trust that as we walk through yet another contentious election cycle, there will be hope no matter the outcome. I trust that as we deal with a global pandemic surging in our city, we will see God’s power in a variety of ways. And I trust that in all things, big and small, God will give each of us wisdom, the hope to which he has called us, and understanding of the power which raised Christ from the dead.

(Oh, and song lyrics! I trust him to help me understand what song lyrics REALLY mean before I belt them out in my minivan.)

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