I haven’t blogged in a while, and rereading the shallow ridiculousness I’ve been blogging about lately, I feel I owe you all an apology. Hopefully this post makes amends.
I remember when I was younger having teachers and youth leaders warning us that even though we thought we just liked the music for the beat or melody, in reality, the lyrics were infiltrating our hearts and minds. I’m fairly certain these warnings were intended to protect us against the “evils” of Tupac and Kurt Cobain, but it had pretty much the opposite effect on me. Bound and determined to prove them wrong, or maybe just to rebel, I started listening for God in the secular.
I think the real problem may be, though, that those teachers and youth leaders were wrong; we don’t internalize lyrics. The more I’ve pondered this, the more I think it’s indicative of contemporary culture rather than our generation. It’s not just girls in clubs mindlessly singing along to Ray J’s “Sexy Can I,” it’s also more mature audiences sitting in their pews on Sunday morning singing “Be Thou My Vision” on autopilot.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan lately. Morrison has a rendition of “Be Thou My Vision” that highlights his twangy, Irish glory. As I sat in the choir loft this Wednesday night practicing for this coming Sunday with a group of people whose faith is unquestionable, I wondered if the choir and congregation would be half as reflective as the poetic lyricist Morrison seems to be when singing the 4th verse:
“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”
What would it mean to our culture if we were to really contemplate and internalize that verse? The mind reels.
Maybe it’s the bohemian in me, but Morrison and Dylan are speaking to my soul as of late. Beatnik, visionary poets that they are, I can’t help but be drawn in by both the cadence and the wisdom of their lines. There’s a Dylan song that’s been stuck in my head, and more than anything ever spewed forth from the Contemporary Christian genre, I hope that these lyrics could be sung of me:
“Covenant woman got a contract with the Lord
Way up yonder, great will be her reward.
Covenant woman, shining like a morning star,
I know I can trust you to stay where you are.
And I just got to tell you
I do intend
To stay closer than any friend.
I just got to thank you
For making your prayers known
Unto heaven for me
And to you, always, so grateful
I will forever be.
I’ve been broken, shattered like an empty cup.
I’m just waiting on the Lord to rebuild and fill me up
And I know He will do it ’cause He’s faithful and He’s true,
He must have loved me so much to send me someone as fine as you.”
So…God’s speaking to me through Bob Dylan, and while it’s probably making me more secular (gasp), it’s also making me more thoughtful and reflective about my faith. I mean, how can anyone listen to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison without being thoughtful and reflective? Isn’t that the goal of the lyricist when he puts pen to sheet music? When Mary Byrne wrote “Be Thou My Vision” in the eighth century, she was pouring out her soul, not hoping to occupy 5 minutes of space in 21st century worship services. What’s going on in our souls if we’re not taking in the poetry, be it sacred or secular, of this and every generation as we sit with the notes reverberating through our vocal cords, or our bodies swaying in time, or our earbuds in our ears?