Monday, September 2, 2013

The Forgotten Love Letter

As a kid I used to make up the lyrics to songs all the time. I never really understood what Duran Duran was saying in some of their songs (Those pretty boys could write some complicated lyrics!) so I would just sing along, making up my own words when I wasn't quite sure what they were saying.  "Every little thing the reflex does, leaves the answer to the question aaahhhh...."
Besides Duran Duran, one of my favorite artists back in those days was Howard Jones. He had the big 80's pop hairstyle, a huge synthesizer and the song "No One is to Blame" to put him on the map. When I was in junior high and high school, I used to spend hours listening to his 1985 "Dream Into Action" album on my Sony Walkman. Here are a few lyrics to his song Pearl in the Shell:

What? You wish your hair could do this.
And the fear goes on, shout at dawn
And the tear flows, for nothing

Actually, here is how the lyrics really go:
And the fear goes on, shadows
And the tear flows, for nothing

Back in 1985, I was so frustrated by the last part of that first line ("shout at dawn" was my best guess at what the lyric was) that I sent in a request to the Howard Jones fan club for the lyrics. A few weeks later this large sheet of lyrics returned and I scanned down until I found the song and that line.
"Shout at dawn" is actually "Shadows"?
He's saying "Shadows"?! I couldn't believe I had heard "Shout at dawn." Maybe I had been listening to too much Billy Idol? Anyway, I was glad to have the correct lyrics because I just HAD to know what Howard Jones was saying. I loved him. His music was the soundtrack of my life when I was a teenager. His lyrics were upbeat, optimistic, inspirational---he loved animals, the planet and people of all colors and walks of life and encouraged peace and vegetarianism. (I was all for the love and peace part, but couldn't quite give up the Big Macs.) I bought every one of his albums, wore down my cassettes until they broke and was jealous of my friend Amy who went to all of his concerts and came back from every one with a black T-shirt with Howard's face on it. Even though I never made it to a HoJo concert in the 80's, I knew every one of his songs by heart, even if I made up my own lyrics occasionally. In junior high, I remember singing "Things Can Only Get Better" another Howard Jones top 40 hit, while I helped my mom with the dishes in the kitchen:
"Treating today as though it was the last and final show, get to sixty and feel no regrets..." I sang out.
My mom interrupted me: "And how do you get to sixty and have no regrets?"  She rinsed a plate under hot water and handed it to me. I knew the answer she wanted so I gave it to her:
"You retire five years early with a 401K that rivals Warren Buffet's bank account."
Just kidding! I did NOT say that. Dishes would have dropped to the floor. Instead, I said: "You live for God."
She smiled and I returned to drying the plate in front of me, but decided to HUM top 40 from then on.

The other day I read a selection from Soren Kierkegaard entitled "Alone with God's Word" from the book Provocations.
Listen To The Selection Here
To simplify, he describes the Bible as a love letter from God to humanity. He asks, "My listener, how highly do you value Gods Word?  Imagine a lover who has received a letter from his beloved. I assume that God's Word is just as precious to you as this letter is to a lover..." He goes on to describe how someone reads a letter from a lover - urgently, enthusiastically--with a great need to understand every word and nuance and that while they are reading it, they would really rather be alone, uninterrupted in order to ponder and revel in the words the letter contains. He goes on to ask, what if the lover asks for something in the letter?  Do we not run out and do it right away?  Imagine a letter from the love of your life, asking you to PLEASE do something. Would you not make sure it gets taken care of? You can see why he uses this metaphor. The Bible is a love letter from God to us and it also contains specific instructions on how we are to live.
And yet, if you're like me, you don't read it like that. You read it more like a newspaper. You scan the headlines (i.e. the sections of the Gospel that are easy to understand and get right to the point) and avoid the financial sections that are really complicated and often depressing (the Old Testament.) The Sports Pages are fun (i.e. Proverbs) since there is a lot of action verbs and catchy phrases. Psalms is like a special weekend insert in the paper--there when you need it, full of good reminders about what's out there if you're restless, lonely or sad.
So both Kierkegaard and Howard Jones ganged up on me this week. They convicted me. Here was the conviction:
So how is it that I will write in to the Howard Jones fan club just to be sure I am getting ONE LINE of his song right, and yet skim over God's Word? How is it that GOD writes me a love letter and I read it like I would a newspaper?
Bottom line is when I read the Bible like a newspaper or just skim through it, I miss out. God's Word is chock-full of details and drama and love and languish and there is so much to explore and understand. It is simple in its message of salvation (Kierkegaard also warns about becoming too "scholarly" about the Bible and missing the point - God loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you) and yet it is also a challenge to understand for example, what "resurrection" really meant to the disciples and first century Christians. (See N.T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope for a fascinating read about that very topic.
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The Bible is a love letter from God. I forget that sometimes. Sure it is long, but it is worth reading. Maybe if I approach it thinking that this is the most important letter I will ever receive, one that the Author, Lover of my Soul, wants me to read, understand, treasure and respond to, maybe then I really WILL get to sixty and have no regrets.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
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1 comment:

  1. Bottom line is when I read the Bible like a newspaper or just skim through it, I miss out. A very great phrase. Thanks for posting.