Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam


Jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam.

Sunbeams are not made like me”

From “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam” by The Vaselines

The above song was immortalised in Nirvana’s “MTV: Unplugged in New York” live recording six short months or so before Kurt Cobain tragically took his own life.  Whilst the song is somewhat child-like and cynical, I actually reckon it holds a fair bit of truth.

I’ve previously commented that many of the songs I learnt in my most formative years are the ones I can still recite perfectly.  That is certainly true for me when I think about nursery rhymes or songs from Sunday School.  What did we sing in those church halls in my pre-school days?  “Jesus Love Is Very Wonderful”, “My God Is So Big, So Strong and So Mighty”, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know For The Bible Tells Me So” and the age old classic, “I May Never March In The Infantry” (Man, what was THAT one all about?)

When my three and a half year old is really happy, she will sometimes burst into song.  Some of it is the songs she learns in nursery.  From time to time it cheers my heart when she spontaeneously breaks into “Our God Is A Great Big God” or “1,2,3,4,5 my Jesus is my life!” with great enthusiasm.  It gladdens me in equal measure when she joyfully announces “I love you.  I am the milkman of human kindness, I will leave an extra pint” (from Billy Bragg’s “The Milkman of Human Kindness”).

So hopefully, some truths are being sown in this little life and I pray that some day she will find her own faith.  I pray that the example that my wife and I set will make it seem really natural for her to grasp a worldview where the God of the Bible is central to that.  I pray that we would not brainwash her or impose some hand me down faith that she doesn’t own for herself.

Does Jesus want me for a sunbeam?  Well, I am called to be salt and light.  To be distinctive, to add flavour to the world around me, to preserve what is good, noble and true, to bring hope and direction into darkness.  But a sunbeam, just sounds so twee and makes me think of sticking my head in the clouds and not tackling life head on.  It troubles  me when we sing songs like “Oh, Happy Day” in church, because the lyrics seem to polarised and not really a reflection of what seems to me like real life.  Maybe I have just always preferred the minor chords…

So if Jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam, what does he want of me?  What does he want of you? 

I think we cause ourselves a lot of frustration in life by never gaining a satisfactory answer to that particular question.  I have often wished I had the giftings or abilities of others.  Sometimes I have taken on responsibilities that I have found draining because, whilst I could do them, they were not really what enthused me or what I am wired or shaped to do.

Undoubtedly, the most helpful thing I have done in my Christian life was to work through a book called “The Network Ministry Resource” by Bruce Bugbee and Don Cousins.  It helped me clarify what my spiritual gifts and natural abilities were, what I’m equipped to do, what my personal style is and how I can use that with authenticity and where I’m actually motivated to get involved.  As a small group we worked our way through this for a few months, affirming, challenging and holding each-other accountable.  I now base so many of my decisions on what I learned from that book.  I would strongly recommend it to everyone and I provide a link here for the leaders pack which has a DVD resource, etc and another link here for the participants’ book. 

I know that most of our small group found this a really important investment of time.  Even if you’re not affiliated with a small group of folks in a regular or structured way, there are ways of getting people around you who can be accountable even via the phone or Internet.  That has also been equally true for me in my journey thus far.  

I can only say how useful I have found this exercise.  It has shaped my work life, home life and church life and helped me pick up and explore some new things (including this blog) and set down some other stuff.

Read. Think. Pray. Live.


6 Responses to “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam”

  1. 1 bringonthejoy August 27, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I love ‘Oh happy day’! I think just because it such a song of celebration of our salvation. I love its gospel-ness (in my head it’s always sung by a big choir of African-Americans swaying and clapping as they sing – I must have seen that in a cheesy film somewhere). I never thought it was meant to be a reflection of real life, but one of those songs that lifted you up beyond the day-to-day.
    Anyway, also wanted to big up the Network course. I keep meaning to go back and revisit what I took from it last year, to see if anything has changed. Maybe small group should do a network course review?

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin August 27, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    When I mentioned, “Oh Happy Day” I wasn’t trying to diss a particular song writer. There is a version we sometimes sing at MBC by Tim Hughes (who is a worship leader or whatever moniker you want to give it)who’s songs I generally rate. It’s just that I really don’t like that particular song as it just irks me as “happy, clappy, nonsense”. There you go, I’ve gone and said it…Sorry, Tim – just being honest.

    I know that may just be style and I know that it probably just conveys the hope of heaven. That said, it just grits with me when we sing it, so it never makes the list of songs that I select when leading the music times at church.

    In a similar way, I actually quite like “I Can Only Imagine”, but dislike its, well, lack of imagination in terms of what heaven will actually be like…Maybe we just need more imaginative or creative folks to write “worship” songs. David Crowder and Sufjan Stevens (on the Seven Swans album in particular) have come to my rescue on those fronts.

    Sam W has also sensitively shed some light on some song words we use in church without thinking how they may be interpreted by the increasing number of unchurched folks who frequent our building. I’m grateful to Sam for this and in the cold light of day you won’t find me including “Jesus Take Me As I Am” anytime soon…

    That may sound crude, opinionated or critical, but I hope it’s constructive.

  3. 3 brunettekoala August 27, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    I learned that song in Brownies! (I will never march in the infantry, ride in the calvary….

    My favourite verse is ‘I will never fly like superman, climb like spiderman, bend like bananaman’

    Mainly because I liked pretending to ‘bend like bananaman’.

    Never realised it was a ‘Christian song’ and perhaps that’s just as well. It doesn’t make an awful lot of sense really.

    I think what we have to remember, is to not just like songs because we’ve respected other songs written by the same person. I think we have the tendency to fall into that trap in culture of contemporary worship music as it is right now. And also to really pray into the songs we choose to sing…there are times and places for them.

    Like, there are times of real celebration when we will be in a very ‘happy, clappy’ place. Times when we are declaring God’s power. Times when we are struggling to keep worshipping, when our world is crumbling but we still realise that God remains the same. Times when we are mourning. Times when we are marvelling…

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin August 28, 2008 at 5:10 am

    Thanks BK. I think there are some timeless truths in some songs we pass from one generation yo another – whether that is the likes of “Amazing Grace” or whether it’s a childrens’ chorus such as “The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock”.

    I also think it is helpful to have songs that cover a range of things. When we gather corporately to worship, then it is fitting that our focus is on God and that by singing together, we affirm truth to eachother. On Sunday night for instance, I found it encouraging even for a few fleeting seconds to see you expressing your worship to God knowing the contaent of the text message you had received only a few minutes before we were about to start the service.

    I think it is important to recognise that a congregation comprises people who will be at different places spirituallly every time we meet.

    I sometimes wonder if our song words are narrow in subject matter? That said I think the song “Blessed be The Name of The Lord” took on a whole new meaning for me when I saw the Donnachie and Purvis family singing it as part of our wider gathering after the tragic death of little Olivia last year. That’s when it begun to strike me about how easy it is to sing things without questionong whether we really mean them. Do we grieve God by blatantly lying to him in our times of praise?

  5. 5 Lucy January 5, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I too like songs in the minor chord…also sometimes I think there are times when only silence will do, or music without words.

  6. 6 thestatethatiamin January 5, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks Lucy. I have had a quick look at your blog and really like it. I know what chronic fatigue syndrome is having watched my wife battle with it. You might like a post I wrote a few months back called “I See A Darkness” which you can find on the search engine part of my blog on the front page

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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