Thursday, May 7, 2009

Songs I Can’t Sing Anymore – Part 2

I grew up listening to rock and roll from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I have always maintained that there is no era of music that I prefer to listen to more, and I listened to a lot of it in college and during the years before my wife and I had children. I amassed over two-hundred albums on vinyl over the years, before compact discs took over. I have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of years transferring this music to my iPod. As I’ve recently begun listening to this music again, I have been struck by the lyrics of many of the songs – seen anew from a refreshed Christian perspective. I believe that I listened only to the music back in my younger days, but today I actually pay attention to the lyrics. This is the second in a series of articles discussing the possible hidden (or overt) meaning in many songs I used to sing out loud -- without actually listening to what the words were saying.


As a guitar player, I have always admired the music of Dan Fogelberg. He was a multi-talented musician, reportedly able to pick up almost any new instrument and immediately begin playing it as if he had invested years of practice. His voice was unique, and he often recorded all of the vocal and instrumental tracks on his records by himself (though he usually liked to turn over the drums to someone more accomplished). His words had an appeal to many, because they often had a searching and philosophical overtone that satisfied people’s need for more than just pop lyrics. I’ve sung many of his songs, either at talent shows or while wooing my wife-to-be during my college years. Those songs include the one I mention here – a fact which I now find almost unbelievable, given that I’ve been a Christian since the age of twelve.

Part of the Plan was released by Fogelberg in 1975, as the opening song on the Souvenirs album. It’s catchy, singable, and pretty easy to play on the guitar. The lyrics start out in a searching fashion, making you wonder if there’s more to life than what we’re experiencing:

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I'm feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I'm all worried and weak
And I feel myself s
tarting to crumble.

The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don't know what you're
Going to do next.
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you.
Some kind of message comes through.

This is a good start, seen from a Christian perspective. There is certainly a longing in life for more than what this world has to offer, if we choose to grasp only the things of this world. So what is the message that “came through” to Fogelberg? The chorus of the song tells us:

And it says to you...
Love when you can
Cry when you have to...
Be who you must
That's a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we'll all understand...

Oops…problem. From a biblical perspective, “being who I must” is a recipe for disaster. The New Age worldview tells us to do this very thing – by following what our heart tells us. Even Christians make this slip quite often, saying “I followed my heart’s leading…” about some matter or another. But Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We are called to follow God’s example, left to us in the Holy Scriptures and the example of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is not necessarily “what I am” – in fact, it rarely is. Being like Christ takes a determination and perseverance that is not easy for me. The very thing that requires the least effort for me is to lapse into what I believe to be my true nature.

If this was not enough to ruin the song for me, the third verse clinches it:

There is no Eden or Heavenly gates
That you're gonna make it to one day
But all of the answers you seek can be found
In the dreams that you dream
On the way.

This verse saddens me. I’ve written before about Dan’s life, death, and his belief in between. His philosophy that “dreams” can take the place of a loving Father waiting for us in eternity leaves me cold and empty. While it sounds pretty to follow your dreams or to dream of a better world, the simple truth is that God offers an eternal, precious existence in His kingdom of heaven. But we must embrace and accept His offering as the free gift of grace that it is. Only He can save us, and this can be achieved only through His wondrous plan. This is more than the “simple survival” offered up by Fogelberg. It’s a lasting gift of eternity, as we live humbly before Him.


Next in the series... or


Candice said...

I am really liking this series, it is really making me think about what I listen to and more importantly what I let my kids listen to. Fortunately I have a little reminder whenever I turn on something I shouldn't. "Is this a Christian song Mom?", "well no Jakob it isn't", "then you should really turn it off."

I can't wait for the next installment

Jaqueline said...

I read Sarah a fairytale that of course ended in "they lived happily ever after and dreams come true." She looked at me and said Mom there are no happily ever after or "dreams coming true here they only come true when we get to Heaven and see God.
Leave to a six year old to see things I didn't figure out till I became an adult.