Work Song: A Resurrection Story

I don’t know why.

I just love this song.

I suppose it’s because it sounds a lot like me in some ways.

Hozier’s “Work Song” is a strange piece of music. I suppose that’s Hozier’s thing. But it takes a subtle rhythmic grip on me.

But the lyrics are a mixture of dripping sweetness and grave self-awareness.

My baby’s sweet as can be, she give me toothaches just from kissin’ me
I was three days on a drunken sin

You might want to give it a listen.

That unique juxtaposition is part of what attracts me. The absurdity of some of the claims rival the most trite of love songs. When you consider the chorus, you see the hyperbole that simply underlines the depth of the love he is striving to express.

When my time comes around
lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

You hear these words and you know that it’s a deliberate overstatement of the reality it’s meant to express.

But there’s something deeper here that stands out to me that I suspect was richer than even the lyricist had intended. The idea that this human love can endure even the separating chasm of death is a stretch even for a dreamer like myself. But the notion that there is a love deep enough to overcome the grip of the grave is not simply a stretch.

It’s truth.

As a follower of Jesus, I understand that Jesus was God in the flesh. God came near and lives the perfect life that none of us could possibly live. Then Jesus lay His own body on a cross to endure the penalty of death that you and I deserve because of our selfish hijacking of our life from the One who made us for Himself.

Jesus’ lifeless body was placed “in the cold dark earth,” (to borrow Hozier’s expression). But, in something so very much more than an expressive dramatization, Jesus did rise from that grave.

But there’s more. The Scriptures unfold for us the plan for Jesus to return some day and gather His beloved, His Church, to Himself and take us out of this mess.

I know that this was probably not on Hozier’s mind when he penned these lyrics, but he is overstating a love that, in his human brokenness (just like the rest of us), he wants to be true—that he could crawl right out of the grave to return to his beloved. But, as I hear these words, my mind is drawn to the promise of the One who died for me. Because He died and conquered the grave for me, out of His incredible love for me, is preparing a place in His own presence for me.

SO… in a very real way, when my time comes around and my body is placed in the cold, dark earth, my spirit will fly on home to my Beloved. And then one day my body will join—having been instantly transformed to be like Jesus’ own glorious body—to spend forever in a state of everlasting wonder and peace.

But the wonder of all of this is not even the overcoming of the grave. In fact, the second verse of Hozier’s work paints a picture I want to draw to your attention.

Boys when my baby found me
I was three days on a drunken sin
I woke with her walls around me
Nothin’ in her room but an empty crib
And I was burnin’ up with fever
I didn’t care much how long I lived
But I swear I though I dreamed her
She never asked me once about the wrong I did

Hozier expresses here a picture of what I believe is the greatest wonder in all of the Story. It is the wonder of grace.

Just like his description, my Beloved, my Savior, came to my rescue when I was wallowing in the gravity of my sin. When I accepted His help, all of the mess, all of the sin, all of the self-absorption was washed away.

It wasn’t that I was worthy or even worth it. It sure wasn’t that I was good enough. It was entirely out of His own character. He gave me a new life that will not end in a grave. It’s going forever beyond that.

No grave can hold my body down.

I’ll be raised to be with Him.

Now… I think this is a great song. But it’s what it points me to that strikes such a chord in me. But, at the same time, it makes me think a great deal about the most powerful earthly gift I’ve been given—my partner, my helper, my refuge here in this world. And when Hozier sings about crawling home to his love even out of the grave, I get it. I’m that kind of crazy in love with my girl too.

But that love was a gift with a higher purpose. It was given me to help me see here a glimpse of the more wondrous, more powerful, everlasting intimacy for which we were made.

That makes me want to simply hold her close and give thanks.

I think I shall.

Come Away: An Invitation

Few artists are as easy on the ears as Norah Jones. She’s just so smooth.

Her simple, gentle song, “Come Away With Me,” is a great example of her handiwork. It drips with a longing to simply be together.

You should give it a listen.

Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song

There is a rich dimension of marriage that resonates in me as I listen to this song. It is that realization that my beloved is indeed my safe place, my shelter from the chaos and strife of life. This relationship is my retreat.

When I listen to Ms. Jones sing these words, it’s the heart of my beloved that I hear whisper, “Come away with me…”

If you’re married, I hope you have that sense in your marriage as well. If you’re not married, don’t worry, there is a provision of this kind of retreat for you as well. But it’s different, even deeper, and longer-lasting.

This gentle call of Ms. Jones’ crafting speaks to many of us. But, even as it stirs my heart’s bond with my love, it echos of the words of Jesus to his closest followers as they returned from a ministry outing. They had been so buy that many of them had not even had time to eat. His call to them:

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” (Mark 6.31)

There is a deep compassion in his words as he invites them, fresh off of a journey of pouring out from their spiritual buckets, to come sit under the fountain and be refilled to overflowing. You and I, as followers of Jesus, are sent into the world day after day to love and serve and share His great grace with others. And we need, just as they, that retreat for our own souls to refill.

This passage is a more particular invitation but it is in the same spirit of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11.28:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

That invite is open to all of us who are beat down by life and struggling to keep on keeping on. It is the One who loves you so much that He willfully lay down His life for you offering you the one thing you most need—soul-deep, peaceful rest.

That’s not exactly what Norah Jones was singing about. But she was describing the retreat of love that we can find in an intimate marriage relationship. And Paul taught us that this marriage thing has always been a picture of a much greater reality—the love of Jesus for His people (which Paul said comprises Jesus’ bride). So, in a way, she really was talking about this invitation.

She sings, “Come away with me.”

Jesus calls, “Come to me.”

So I want to encourage you to give a prayerful listen to this beautiful song and give thanks for the place of refuge you’ve been given—in oneness with Christ for sure, but also in intimacy with your spouse. They are connected.

Maybe it’s a good time to “come away” with the one in whom your soul finds rest.

Perfect Imperfections?

It’s hard to explain the depth of my desire to be as smooth as John Legend. Hopeless though it may be, it remains a longing in my soul.

But this is not really about John Legend… I just felt like I had to lay that on the table to own it. It’s a strange compulsion that I have sometimes.

Legend’s masterpiece of a love song, “All of Me,” brings an open-eyed integrity to a genre of music that is inherently blind. Love songs, as a general rule, are full of idealized, fairy-tale descriptions that so often betray the substance of what they express and show the shallow infatuation for what it really is.

If you’re not familiar or just need a refresher, give it a listen here.

I have a particular soft spot for artists that resist the sugarcoating and acknowledge the humanness of love.

Legend owns the confusion and mystery of a committed love and asks, “What’s going on in that beautiful mind?” He acknowledges her craziness and being out of his own mind. It’s the back and forth that paint one of the most powerful and realistic pictures of a marriage between two deeply committed but utterly broken people.

Consider this carefully woven lyric:

All of me loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you
You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm wining
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

That’s a bold promise – to love all of someone. It’s not the infatuation-blinded drivel of a guy that can’t believe he managed to marry a supermodel. It’s the honest recognition that she has issues and he has issues and that, despite his own issues, he is committed to love her despite her issues. That’s really what it means to love someone well—not to ignore their issues but to embrace them.

That phrase though… “All your perfect imperfections.”

It rings deeply within me because it’s a description of the way I am loved, not just by my amazing wife, but much more by my Savior. He doesn’t just love the gifts and obedience in me. He loves the parts of me that give His power an opportunity to be displayed.

To be clear, I’m not saying that God loves my sin. I am saying that God loves the weaknesses in me that so often result in sin because it is in these areas that I find my greatest dependence upon Him.

But this goes deeper. He knew those weaknesses and chose to lay down His life for me anyway. He gave all for me. And He challenges me to give myself wholly to Him.

This picture is exactly what I’m called to live out in my marriage – to pour myself out for my bride as she does for me. But even that was created from the beginning to demonstrate this incredible reality of how Jesus the Son of God lay down His own life to pardon every imperfection in me and how I am called to lean into that love without reservation.

John Legend’s work of art is not about Jesus and His love for me… but it is about the open-eyed wonder of marriage—and it turns out that’s the same thing.

I’d challenge you to go and read Paul’s discourse on this in Ephesians 5 and see if this song doesn’t mean so much more when you do so.

And, if you have a perfectly imperfect spouse to share this life with, take them in your arms, maybe even dance a little, and remember the much greater picture that God brought you together to show to you. Then worship Him by celebrating His gifts with a deeply grateful heart.