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Friday, May 25, 2007

Swimming Without God

Help me out God
I need a little something
Turn the brights on
I can't see where we're going cause I don't know
when things'll work out just fine
Or if this road we're on leads us up
Or is leading me on down to my wishing well
Where I might drown
Oh I might drown
'Cause I can't swim without you God
I can't swim without you God

from "Help Me Out God" from the album Karaoke Superstars by Superchick

I was listening to this song the other day and it got me thinking. You know, there are millions of people who live out their lives without God. Some of them actively reject God, some maybe never hear of God, but many of them do "just fine" and, to all outward appearances, lead happy, healthy lives. So it struck me that if this song is literal, that means the songwriter is someone who desperately needs a crutch to lean on... someone who is at best a weakling, and at worst, codependent. No matter if God is real or not; if you "can't make it without God" then all of those millions of atheists and heathens are of stronger mind and character than you.

There are lots of songs like this one out there in Christian music. I think maybe some of them owe a lot to a legacy of similarly codependent "love songs" in the nonreligious realm... "Tell me how am I supposed to live without you, now that I've been lovin' you so long? How am I supposed to live without you? How am I supposed to carry on when all that I've been livin' for is gone?" (thank you, Michael Bolton!) I could probably come up with more examples, but you get the picture. We want to apply those strong, inspiring words to Jesus because we feel like Jesus deserves strong, inspiring words. And He does. But...

A few months ago my father-in-law lost his wife to death. He is in his sixties, and they got married as teenagers. He loves her very, very much. He misses her every day. In fact, he still feels unable to do certain things... drive very far, concentrate for long periods of time, things like that. But you know... as much as he loves her and needs her, he is carrying on. And I think he has a really good shot at living a long life even though she is gone. Some who lose spouses that they are devoted to even go on to remarry and have equally loving relationships with another spouse... I was talking to a friend just a few weeks ago who lost his much-loved first wife to death, but then eventually he met and married a wonderful woman who he is also devoted to. Fact is, well-adjusted human beings are very resilient, and at the risk of sounding callous, I'll state the obvious fact that often we can recover from things we think we can never recover from.

So if songs like "Help Me Out God" have a possible heritage in faulty pop love songs, is there validity in songs like that applied to Christ? That depends on whether those sentiments are Scriptural. I spent an afternoon racking my brain, trying to think of a place in the Gospels, Paul's letters, the Psalms for goodness sake... ANYWHERE that says that once you become a believer in God, after that point your physical survival depends on maintaining your relationship with God. I don't see it. The best I could do was this:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. -John 15:5 ESV
But the fact is, that doesn't really prove our point. That's Jesus talking, and Jesus isn't interested in any good deeds we perform in our own strength:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. -Isaiah 64:6 ESV
In other words, from God's point of view, if He did not initiate your activities, whatever you are doing counts as nothing. Jesus wasn't saying that you would stop breathing if you turned away from God. Although I guess it could be argued that if Jesus turned His back on us, the fabric of the universe might disintegrate:
And he [Christ Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:17 ESV
But now we're going places that the Superchick song isn't going. Clearly we can physically survive without God. We cannot accomplish anything for His Kingdom without His help, but I don't find it in Scripture that we must stay in fellowship with God for our physical or emotional survival. God's people are not weaklings; we are human beings like everyone else, but if we say stuff like "I can't live without God!" we present a picture to the unsaved that we do not want to present... basically, we are saying that we are weaker than they, because they are likely doing just fine without God where we would emotionally fall to pieces without Him holding things together. No wonder atheists often say that Christians are weak-minded. We basically say it ourselves.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy that Superchick song. And you know, sometimes I feel like I would crack up without God helping me out. And I know that my life has meaning and purpose to it that it would not have if I didn't have Jesus giving me direction and empowering me to do what He has instructed me to do. But from a purely human standpoint, I am as stable physically and emotionally as the next guy. I'm not too weak to function in life without some spiritual "crutch," but I do know a good thing when I see it. If I have the choice to walk five miles to the store or drive in my car, I'd be stupid to walk, especially if I had a load to carry home. I have the option of leading a life without God or living a life with God. It's possible without God; it's better with God.

I choose God.

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