Silly Love Songs

“You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs.

I look around and I see, it isn’t so…”

From “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney and Wings

Given that I sometimes leads times of music at our church gathering, Duncan lent me a really thought provoking book last year called “Exiles – Living Missionally In A Post-Christian Culture” by Michael Frost.  I’ve included a link here.  In particular, he helpfully directed me to chapter called “The Songs of Revolution – Jesus Ain’t My Boyfriend”.  It really got me thinking about the words we sing in church without really thinking what they mean.  I’ll quote the book as follows:

“At a conventional church service recently all my worst fears about the romantic nature of contemporary worship were realised.  On the screen appeared the following lyrics, which most people around me sang with furrowed brows, closed eyes, and meaningful looks of intensity on their faces.

“The simplest of all love songs

I want to bring to you,

So I’ll let my words be few –

Jesus, I am so in love with you”.

I balked.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell Jesus that I am in love with him.  In fact, I had such a sense of revulsion that I had to think long and hard about why this was disturbing me so much.  Maybe the lyric isn’t meant to be taken too seriously (I can be guilty about thinking too much about these things), but it occurred to me that I’m not only not in love with Jesus, I’m not actually “in love” with anyone in my life at the moment.  I’m not in love with my children.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never “fallen in love” with any of my children.  I have loved them with an intensity of love that I never knew I was capable of.  I have loved them more than life itself since each of them was born.  I have never at any moment in their lives questioned my unconditional, unreserved love for them.  But “fall in love” with them? No.  Never.

I love my mother dearly, but I haven’t “fallen in love” with her.  There are many people in my life that I love very much, but I’m not “in love” with them either.  I wouldn’t even say that I’m “in love” with my wife, Carolyn, whom I have loved deeply and faithfully for more than half my life.  I was once in love with her.  Actually, I was head over heels in love with her, but I discovered that it’s a fleeting and unreliable set of emotions.  I’m not suggesting that being in love with someone isn’t deliciously exciting, even exhilarating.  It’s a marvelous feeling, but it never lasts.  It might be the kind of emotional elation that throws members of the opposite sex together, but it doesn’t carry the kind of emotional provisions that can sustain that relationship.  Real loving is something much richer, deeper, more robust, more powerful than anything experienced when we are “in love” with someone.  In fact, Scott Peck says that in any relationship, real loving can begin only when the feelings of being in love dissipate.  Once those fabulously carefree romantic feelings ebb away after a time, then a couple is forced to confront the much more genuinely loving choice to remain faithful and true.

So, what does it mean to sing to Jesus that we are in love with him?  Is it that we have intense and exhilarating feelings of attraction toward him?  That our legs go to jelly and our stomach churns whenever he walks into the room?  I have no doubt that when we first encounter Jesus and his savage grace, there are intense feelings of spiritual pleasure, even bliss.  This certainly was my experience.  I also have no doubt that in our life-long journey with Jesus there will be times of spiritual communion of similar intensity.  Sometimes during corporate worship or personal times of reflection and prayer, I feel deep gratitude and a wonderful attraction to the person of Jesus.  But I have never felt myself falling in love with him”.

Interesting and thought provoking stuff. It helps me see how marriage and the commitment that goes with that to stay the course “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” is a symbol of our commitment to Christ.  After all, the church is the bride of Christ, is it not?  It makes me realise afresh, how blessed I am to have the wonderful wife I do.  Life has been far from plain sailing at times in the 10 and a half years we have been married, but I still love her hugely and, yes, it is a very different set of emotions from those heady days when we first started going out in 1992.  Does that diminish how I feel now?  Not in the slightest.  That said I think I would still describe myself as very much in love with her, although I know exactly what Michael Frost is getting at.


4 Responses to “Silly Love Songs”

  1. 1 duncanmcf August 29, 2008 at 7:33 am


    I “love” that part of the book – I found it helpfully honest. It just brings me back to thinking that the love we’re called to be is agape, i.e. sacrificial active love. Yes, there’s an emotional part of that, but when we think of love like that, it gives a different perspective. Maybe David Crowder’s “You are my joy” falls into the former category too?

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin August 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks D.

    In thinking of our spiritual journey as being more akin to marriage than merely the excitement of the early stages of a relationship, I guess we need to learn how to stay committed, focused, faithful and true and to travel forward together with Jesus as we move farther down the road. I’ve been seeing that afresh as I read my way through the story of the Exodus. The story is often slow at unfolding and the people are so easily distracted and forgetful at times. Yet, when I look at the timeline involved, I wonder how different I would have been…

    Also in preserving a marriage we need to sometimes sensitively alter our agendas or preferences. Maybe that includes not having the alrm clock linked to an iPod blasting “You Are my Joy” at 2 million dcbs first thing in the morning, huh K?

  3. 3 bringonthejoy August 29, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Hey hub that’s so cool. I’m officially touched.
    As far as love songs to Jesus go, I totally get the point in the quoted passage, but it would be a shame to use it to invalidate love songs to Jesus. I wonder if sometimes we just end up all singing songs which are really very personal expressions of the writer’s feelings and thoughts, and they should remain the joint property of the writer and Jesus. Love letters are only meant for the recipient really aren’t they? As far as the being in love with Jesus thing goes, it’s perhaps just true enough to say that people can often have quite different experiences of faith. What is true for one of us may not be true of our neighbour in terms of how we are feeling, or thinking as we join together and sing songs.
    And yet sometimes it is a wonderful thing to sing simple words that convey a simple truth all together as one church. And hey, we don’t have to sing the words on the screen if they don’t ring true for us. We could always make up our own words I suppose.

  4. 4 thestatethatiamin August 30, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Thanks BOTJ. I agree. Sometimes we need to bring a “sacrifice of praise” when we don’t feel like singing or being at church. at other times we can be overflowing with thankfullness. Most of the time, I guess, we are somewhere inbetween. That passage got me thinking about words generally. Are the songs we sing in church often too narrow in their focus? Do they really convey what our journey of faith can look like at times or do they just focus on the panoramas from the mountaintops?

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