Have you ever caught yourself mindlessly mouthing the lyrics to a song in a worship service without actually understanding its meaning? Or wondered if you mean what you’re singing even as you’re singing those words? I know I have. I have also been guilty of letting my mind wander mid-stanza even with my eyes closed and my hands raised as I sing my heart out.
Then I realize it, and I feel awful. I feel like a total two-faced fake and sometimes I even get a little scared. Because let’s face it. The lyrics to the songs we sing can be quite radical:
“I give myself away so You can use me.”
“Lord, I give You my heart. I give You my soul. I live for You alone.”
“You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.”
“I surrender all.”
When songwriters put their hearts and souls into musical tributes to God, they usually have strong and driving motivations for doing so. But when we sing the words that someone else wrote, they do not always necessarily resonate with us at that specific point in our lives.
There are many different types of songs. There are the songs that do nothing more than recognize and honor God for who He is and all He has done for us, there are those that sing of His love, His mercy, His greatness, His majesty, and how we love Him… These are the kinds that are easier to mean.
Then, there are the “commitment” songs. I have often referred to these as the “dangerous” songs. Dangerous not in the sense that lightning will strike or grenades will explode if we so much as hum their melodies, but dangerous in the sense that if we mean them, we better be prepared to let God hold us to our word.
But what if we don’t mean them? Or what if we’re afraid to mean them? Should we refrain from singing them altogether? Should we try to bargain with God that we only mean 70% of the song, or maybe customize the lyrics in our heads?
Some to Jesus, I surrender
Some to Him I freely give
I will sometimes love and trust Him
In His presence some days live.
I surrender some!
Doesn’t quite work that way, does it? Thankfully, we have a God who knows full well that not one of us, in our humanness, could mean every song we sing at every season of our lives. Sometimes, life takes its toll on us, and it is difficult to relinquish all control of our circumstances to God. Other times, things may be going so well for us that the thought of giving up everything for Him just seems a little bit too much—despite the desire to want to give back to Him.
The amazing thing about God is that He sees it all, and yet He continues to love us. He continues to pursue us and be patient with us. God is fully acquainted with our fears, our insecurities, our cowardice… but that does not stop Him from waiting for us to be ready to give Him our whole hearts.
So when we sing to Him, it is important that we make it a point to mean the lyrics. However, if we don’t, it does not mean that we should have nothing to do with them. Instead, we can let those lyrics be a reminder of what God wants from us.
We can challenge ourselves to mean them. We can let those words spur us on in our efforts to have a relationship with God that is so vibrant and so alive that meaning those words would no longer seem daunting. We can also be thankful that God does not consider us liars when we have trouble lining up our heart’s intentions and aspirations with the words of a song.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that we have the license to be lackadaisical in drawing closer to God on a daily basis. While God is not a God who would force us to make commitments to Him that we are not yet ready to make, His patience and gentleness does not in any way diminish His desire for us to desire Him.
As much as giving ourselves over to Him is what He wants from us, it is also what He wants for us, because we are the ones who will benefit from a thriving relationship with Him. God has only always wanted the best for us, and that “best” is Himself.
So the next time you sing a song to Jesus, be it in your car, in the bathroom, on a stage, or in church, pay close attention to the lyrics. Music and songs have a special way of connecting us to the things around us, and it is no different with God. Strive to mean what you sing, and if you can’t, let those words be your prayer.
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