Liturgical Musings

My church upbringing was in a denomination that didn’t have a lot of time for formal liturgy. I don’t mean that our worship services were completely spontaneous and unstructured; there was a formula or pattern to these things and we followed it. You might call that an informal liturgy, I suppose, but there wasn’t a lot of formulaic responsive recitation or reading. “Lift up your hearts” “We lift them up to the Lord” or “May the peace of Christ be with you” “And with your spirit also” didn’t have a place in our services.

The closest thing we had to a liturgical formula was that the pastor would frame our participation in the Communion with I Corinthians 11:23-26:  Paul’s explanation of what’s supposed to happen in the living ritual. And that was his personal practice, not a denominational custom or mandated liturgy. Oh, and we’d usually end our services by saying “the Grace” to one another: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.”

With this background, naturally as a teen I was a little suspicious of formal liturgies. How can worship be genuine, it was reasoned, if you’re just going through the motions of reading or reciting the same old stuff every week?  How does that really touch wherever you are right now?

As an adult with a vastly broader church experience, I look at this reasoning and see a lot of missing the point. I’ve seen some of the drivel that some people unfortunately come up with when left to their own devices. It’s like people writing their own wedding vows: some people do a good job and create something both personal and meaningful, others shouldn’t have been let near the process without close editorial supervision. You never know what you’re going to get.

Beside that, it’s rather arrogant to assume that anyone worshipping with the aid of a formal liturgy is only going through the motions. And by implication, all “free” and “spontaneous” worship is always pure and genuine.

Real worship isn’t what your mouth is doing so much as what your heart is doing. I can remember plenty of completely spontaneous “times of worship” in which I was just going through the motions, pursuing an emotional high and not the Lord. In certain circles you look really spiritual if you’re willing to dance up and down the aisles – and I’ve done that from sincere and insincere motives – but there’s no place for any feelings of superiority over those whom God meets in quietness and stillness and the reading of time-honoured words.

So I’ve made my peace with liturgy as an adult, more or less. I think one of the main driving forces in my personal reconciliation with formal liturgy was spending several years in Charismatic-type churches and watching them botch Christmas by seemingly failing to acknowledge Our Lord’s birth in worship. When you fetishise not using hymns, apparently that means you can’t sing Christmas carols either, not even the ones replete with truth like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. And so Jesus’ birthday gets sidelined and ignored by His own church.

Sorry. Pet peeve of mine. Anyway, what most liturgical-type churches do really well is the church calendar. It’s an entirely different mode and model of a worship service, in which any one service is conceived as being part of a larger, ongoing flow of service through the year, from Advent through Christmas, Epiphany, Lenten, Easter, Pentecost and right around to the end of what’s called “Ordinary Time” and the start of the next cycle. The focus seems more long-term and ongoing than immediate and “today”.

Ideally, we should be able to find a way to have both. There’s a place for spontaneous worship that breaks out of stale patterns and finds God at work in ways that no-one expected. The Holy Spirit doesn’t tend to like it when our formulas become so all-encompassing that He doesn’t have any room to do something different, but sometimes even our “free and spontaneous worship” just becomes another formulaic straitjacket for Him. Dancing before the Lord can be a wonderful expression of liberated devotion to hHim, or it can be someone looking like a prat because they think on some level that God can only really meet them in a place of emotional high.

These days, I approach a liturgical formula like “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God” “It is right for us to give thanks and praise” and I think “you know what? It is right”. And that’s a truth you don’t often encounter outside of a liturgical-type worship service. Much of the formal liturgy is written the way it is because it expresses certain truths that have withstood the test of centuries.

Oh, some of it’s dross. Often the bits that have been generated by people meddling with the originals in the name of “updating” them, in my experience. And unless you’re careful to maintain a worshipful heart, just mouthing words will do you no good at all. But that’s true whatever our corporate worship services look like.

 

Dance of the Woolly Mammoths

My church, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, sings a lot of what I believe are called “camp meeting songs”. That’s the label I’ve most often heard put on the genre of American worship music that I mean: though there are outliers as late as the beginning of World War Two (like “Victory in Jesus”), most of the ones I’m talking about seem to belong to the half-century or so between the end of the American Civil War in the 1860s and the start of World War One in 1914. If that’s not the right label, I’d love to know what is.

My wife grew up singing these songs, and they are some of her favourite hymns. I didn’t, and I mostly can’t stand them.

The church where we worship is like her in that regard, not like me; we were both fed up to the point of disgusted with contemporary “intimate” worship and “Jesus is my Boyfriend” songs when we started attending, and both wanted some traditional hymns.

Alas, our ideas of what constitutes “traditional hymns” diverges somewhat, and though we both take in things like “And Can It Be” and “Blessed Assurance” and “Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “How Great Thou Art”, my definition of traditional hymns tends to stop short of the era in question.

I’m referring, of course, to the era of things like “Sunshine in my Soul” and “Love Lifted Me” and “When We All Get To Heaven” and all the songs of that ilk, that I struggle to find meaningful and whose music I cordially dislike.

My church loves these things, and they’re going to keep on singing them (nor should they stop just on my account). Leaving over musical differences would be incredibly petty, especially as it’s my problem, not anyone else’s. I’m not about to do something so foolish-seeming, particularly as the songs I don’t like seem to go hand in hand in US church culture with the hymns that I do. So I’ve been looking with increasing desperation for something I can like about them. Or at the very least, some rational reason for my irrational dislike.  What exactly is it that puts me off?

They do all share a certain set of features. The 6/8 time signature is fairly common, and I find that something about that in particular puts me off my stroke, but there are lots of other worship songs of that era that don’t have it, and I don’t like most of them, either. What they do all seem to share is what my wife calls “the walking rhythm”. It’s difficult to describe this in words, but it’s a sort of dompa-dompa-dompa-dompa that puts me in mind, not of people walking, but of woolly mammoths doing some sort of square dance.

Nothing can be done about my musical taste; in that sense it is an irrational dislike, and it doesn’t respond to reasoned argument. However, I find most of the lyrics at least as objectionable as the music, and that we can reason our way through. Why is it that I find this stuff so hard to like?

A great many of them are testimonial in nature. I was going to say that I always dislike testimonial songs, but that isn’t exactly true, because what’s “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine” or “Long my imprisoned spirit lay” or “I will sing the wondrous story” if not testimonial? Truthfully, it’s not the testimonial form, it’s these testimonial songs.

The problem is that I tend to find the words rather trite. Simplistic, black-and-white answers for a question that I was never asking, using hackneyed Christianese that those of us raised in the faith had to wean ourselves away from for the sake of saying something intelligible to unbelievers. Who’d love something like that?

Probably everyone in my church except me, apparently. So why am I the oddball? What is it that they get that I don’t?

Maybe, I’ve started reasoning lately, it might help if I looked at the background of that time period of American history. What kind of spiritual and social conditions could produce “Sunshine in my Soul”, “There’s a New Name Written Down In Glory” or any of these other songs (including the legendary song that my Grandad likes to cite as an example of how not to do it: “Where’s My Lost Wandering Boy Tonight?”)? What was going on in America that moulded its hymnwriting into something that I do not emotionally grasp and find so incredibly hard to love?

I think I may be beginning to understand.

This period in my native Britain was the Victorian era. Well, and the Edwardian, but the tone was set by the reign of Queen Victoria. It was an era of industry, steam and factories, of increasing British dominance in world affairs and the advance of science and engineering. And it’s a period of increasing urbanisation. Charles Dickens wasn’t writing Oliver Twist about country life; it was the city, and the spiritual and social problems were those of the city.

By contrast, America was amazingly rural. The 1870s and 1880s was an era in which large sections of the America we know today were still being settled and relatively empty of ethnically white settlements. It’s the era portrayed by the cowboy movie, the era of How The West Was Won, of Indian massacres (I’m afraid I struggle to call any extermination campaign that viciously one-sided a “war”) and steam railroads and stagecoaches and cattle drives. Massive proportions of the population didn’t even live in the small towns that were being founded on an almost daily basis; they lived on farms or ranches at a distance from even their closest neighbours.

We’re dealing with rural people, living in what would be villages if they were in the UK, but without the presence of the ubiquitous parish churches of the other side of the Atlantic. When your town only got started a decade or so back, of course there was not going to be a parish church whose building was rebuilt in 1387. There might not be a church at all.

What I’m beginning to grasp is probably something that’s instinctive to any long-time American Christian: these are plain folk, and their music reflects that.

One might say “simple folk”, but simple has connotations of ignorance and stupidity, and even at best seems rather condescending. I honestly do not mean anything negative by it in this context.

Looking at the historical situation, what I’m seeing is a social setting in which most people didn’t have the access to education that I tend to take for granted. If Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novelised growing-up saga is at all typical of the times, we’re talking people who probably wouldn’t have much more than an elementary-school-equivalent education. They certainly weren’t stupid, or no more so than people who did have access to better education, just uncomplicated. Plain folk.

The songs of the era, these “camp meeting songs”, are the earnest expressions of simple people who’ve found that Jesus makes a real difference in their lives.

They sound like simplistic black-and-white before-and-after songs because that’s what they are. That’s where the people were at. If you’re in a rural American tent meeting because you know you need to get rid of the drink but you can’t do it yourself, you’re probably not going to have much time for elevated sentiments and deep theological truths set to music, but “I was blind but now I see” or “I was sinking deep in sin” or “There’s a new name written down in glory, and it’s mine” might be scratching where you itch.

I’m probably never going to love this music. For better or worse I’m an educated man, and my tastes are those of an educated man. That’s no better or worse than having the tastes of an uneducated man, it’s just different, by the way; but since I am an educated man, the simple, uncomplicated notes struck by most of these songs probably aren’t going to find a lot of deep personal resonance.

My musical taste, similarly, is what it is, and isn’t that amenable to being reasoned with. Try, as my other grandfather did, telling a child that hates peas that “they’re lovely” and that he’s being silly to not like them.

But though I’m probably not going to gravitate to the lyrics, nor particularly be enamoured of the music, I can appreciate the heart of them. I’d be the first to point out that just because it doesn’t match your experience doesn’t mean that it’s wrong; now I get to practice some of what I preach. Again. Who am I to say that just because my growing up with the faith in Britain didn’t look the way it’s portrayed in most of these songs that the faith behind them is somehow lesser? Unworthy? Rudimentary?

Of course it isn’t.

Still, I do continue to find the lyrics simplistic and the music mostly annoying. It’s a work-in-progress here; I’m still doing the research and trying to find out, still letting the understanding seep in.

I’m probably not going to wake up tomorrow just loving the Dance of the Woolly Mammoths. What I’m trying for, initially, is appreciation, and I think I’ve made a start.

O Families of Nations

My regular Bible readings took me to Psalm 96 yesterday.

It’s a fairly familiar Psalm, beginning “Sing to the LORD a new song”. And the thing about fairly familiar passages is that they are easy to gloss over. If we’ve been following Jesus for any length of time, we can have a tendency to read them almost by rote, not really taking it in but just letting the words wash over us.

What struck me today about the passage was its evangelistic, missionary emphasis.

We can tend to think that in the Old Testament, God is exclusively concerned with Israel. They are the people with whom He has made a Covenant. They are the people He calls His own. They are the nation of faith. All the stories of Joshua, Gideon, King David, Elisha and the rest are all stories of God fighting against the evil pagans who are attacking His people.

Right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, God is certainly concerned to maintain His Covenant with His people. Even when they are faithless, He remains faithful.

So He’s going to defend them. He has a purpose and plan for them that is not served by their destruction. More, He genuinely loves them and wants their good.

But it never has been solely about Israel. They were and remain God’s chosen people, but chosen for what purpose?

Chosen so that through them God might display His glory to the world.

Abraham was blessed as the father of many nations, ancestor of Israel and father to the nation of faith. But the corollary of that was always that “through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed”.

Psalm 96 makes it clear that God wants the praise not just of His Covenant people, but of all peoples. “The gods of the nations are idols, but YHWH made the heavens” is basically evangelistic in tone. Turn away from these worthless things that you have been serving! There is a real, Living God that made the heavens and can actually do something to help you!

“Ascribe to the LORD, o families of nations/Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength/Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name” continues the theme. Giving glory to the LORD is right not just for Israel, not just for His Covenant people whether Old or New, but for all the earth and its families of nations. He made the whole world; He has a right to the praise of the whole world. More, “the gods of the nations are idols”, and ascribing God’s majesty and attributes to a created thing is enslaving yourself to a lie.

It doesn’t much matter if that created thing is money, sex, power, the stars and planets, a carved block of wood or a human philosophy or ideology, it’s a made thing, not a Maker. And when you attribute to it that which is rightfully God’s, that’s the point at which it becomes an idol.

And the passage goes on even more remarkably: “Bring an offering, and come into His courts”. This is, of course, a reference to the Temple worship in Jerusalem.

Under the Law of Moses, Gentiles were forbidden from coming into the Temple beyond the outer court, known as “the court of the Gentiles”. They could observe and listen, but they were outside the Covenant and barred from participation unless they became a Jew by being circumcised and obeying the Law of Moses. “Bring an offering and come into His courts” is especially shocking because it follows on from “Ascribe to the LORD, o families of nations”. In Hebrew, the words “nations” and “Gentiles” are the same, so the sense is pretty clear. Here is King David, prophetically reaching forward to a time when Gentiles will no longer be barred from the worship of God. A time when the invitation to “bring an offering and come into His courts” is for everyone, not just a chosen few.

Part of what the Cross does is open doors and destroy barriers. The sacrificial death of Jesus opens the way for the Gentile, the outsider, to be brought all the way inside the promises of God. And what Psalm 96 helps to show is that this was always the plan. The Gentile Church wasn’t a surprise to God. It was already in the plan. It was the plan: no division any more, but one people worshipping one God.

We can see foreshadowings of it with the Egyptians who chose to go with Israel (ref), with Rahab (a Canaanite), Ruth (a Moabite), Bathsheba (probably a Hittite), Naaman (a Syrian) and others. All the nations of the world being blessed and coming to know God.

The Rhythms of our Souls

It took living in Texas for me to understand Country music.

It’s still not my preferred ear candy, but at least now I can tolerate it and even sort of enjoy it, which might as well be a vital survival skill here in cowboy country.

Driving through the leafy, green countryside of my native Britain, it’s about as alien as HG Wells’ Martians. You’ll probably be able to find someone that likes it – there are people that like all manner of exotica – but it doesn’t fit the natural rhythm and melody of the place.

Having grown up there, I find the rhythm of my soul much more attuned to U2, Queen, Madness, or even Coldplay than to any random Country music artist. Or in terms of Classical music, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches make me come alive in a way that Copeland’s Fanfare For The Common Man just doesn’t quite match.

Interestingly, I was apparently in the former Soviet Union long enough that Slavic composers also tend to make my soul come alive. About my favourite piece of Classical music of all is Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave. Apparently part of my soul grooves to a Russian rhythm.

What brings this up is that one of the foremen on my jobsite is Cuban, and constantly has his radio set to one of the Hispanic stations, and that stuff is even more alien than Country music in Britain. For a start, I don’t understand more than about three words of Spanish, particularly sung, but I could get over that. It’s the rhythm and style which is so totally alien that I cannot imagine it being what my soul grooves to.

The chief instrument appears to be the accordion, which is probably my least favourite instrument in the world and usually scrapes across my soul like fingernails across a blackboard. However, since I actually like the bagpipes, you can feel free to dismiss this with words involving “pot”, “kettle” and “black”. Nothing is invested in my musical preferences except my musical preferences. The whole rhythm and lilt of the music (I guess it’s what is called “Mariachi”) is obviously underpinned by another culture and place – witness the fact that almost all Hispanics seem to love it. It’s apparently the rhythm of their souls, even if it’s not of mine. If it took moving to Texas for me to get Country music, it would probably take moving to Mexico to get Mariachi.

Given the dangerous situation for foreigners in Mexico at the moment, I’m really sure I do not want to do this.

In a related vein, my church is quite into the style of hymn that my wife calls “camp meeting songs”.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it sort of comprises the hundred or so years of Christian songwriting between about 1850 and 1950, taking in the era of the American Great Awakening and the travelling revivalist and tent meetings.

I guess we might have had the same sort of idea in Britain, and for all I know a lot of these songs were written by Brits, but it’s alien music to me. I mean stuff like “Victory in Jesus”, “There’s a New Name Written Down in Glory” and the dreadful “Sunshine in my Soul”. And I’ve now probably named the favourite hymns of several people in my church. Oh well.

It comes from a different era, and while I can remember some of these from the earliest days of my childhood, we stopped singing most, if not all, of them before I was ten. I have no nostalgia about any of it. I don’t call most of the stuff “camp meeting songs”, I call it “barrel-organ-and-monkey music”, because that’s what it all sounds like to me. The sort of noise generated by an organ grinder at a Victorian fairground for a trained monkey in a red coat and hat to caper to. I’m not a monkey; this isn’t the rhythm of my soul either.

Part of it is the words. The story of how I came to faith is rather different from the sort of “come to Jesus” moment depicted by most of these songs, and I find it difficult to relate. Then, too, I think the imagery used in a lot of them has become so hackneyed and stale that it’s effectively lost all meaning for me. If this is what your soul grooves to, I have no problem with that, but I personally don’t find it all easy to like. All I can say is that sometimes “they don’t make ’em like they used to” is a good thing.

The thing is, if you want a church in America that sings the great classic hymns of the English-speaking Christian world, and I do, it seems you’re going to get a church that sings barrel-organ-and-monkey music as well. In America, the two go together. Which means that I have to learn to at least tolerate it, even if I never actually like it.

An interesting question is how this music could completely disappear from Britain but still be around in America as the beloved traditional hymns of much of the church.

From discussions with my wife, and comparing the hymn books we grew up with, I’ve noticed that while American hymns have all of these songs right alongside the old classic hymns that Britain and America’s churches both sing (but often to different tunes), old British church hymn books don’t.

From my early childhood I can remember other song books in the backs of the pews alongside The Baptist Hymn Book. Books with titles like Golden Bells. If my memory serves me correctly, all the barrel-organ-and-monkey songs were in those; they never made it into the hymn book proper, because you couldn’t sing them to the tune of a completely different number hymn.

I remember doing this. “We will now sing hymn no. 127, but we will sing it to the tune of no. 54”. That was part of what made a hymn a hymn; tunes and lyrics were separable, and even though you always sang “Blessed Assurance” to its normal tune, you were dimly aware that you could sing it to a different one. This, incidentally, is why hymn books have indices arranged by poetical metre: anything with a 10.9.10.9 syllabic metre can be sung to the tune of anything else with that metre.

The barrel-organ-and-monkey songs didn’t do that. They were one song, one tune, just like we are used to today. Undoubtedly the music was cutting-edge contemporary when it was written, but the past, too, is another culture, and they don’t do things quite the same there.

But somehow, in order to sing the old hymns that I do like, I have to learn to like these as well.

Maybe learning about the circumstances in which they were written might help, but I actually sort of doubt it. The problem is musical more than it’s lyrical, and my soul simply doesn’t groove to that rhythm at the moment.

A Venusian God in the sphere of Mars

As I was saying last time, I have something of a hard time relating to God as Lover.

It seems to be the one aspect of Who God is that our modern Christian culture has become most fixed on, and I’m just not feeling it.

If what I’m hearing on Christian radio is anything to go by, it seems that the overwhelming majority of contemporary worship ties into this Divine Lover thing. From “and heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss” (which is so embarrassing to sing that they rewrote it as the barely better “like an unrestrained kiss”) to “Jesus I am so in love with You” to that dreadful “More like falling in love” that I recently felt compelled to deconstruct.

Apparently, though, it’s striking a chord with people, or it wouldn’t be so prevalent. Yet at best it leaves me a little cold.

My personal attachment to the ideals of knighthood can’t be the entire reason why I find it so problematic, surely? There are enough tales of chivalrous romance and courtly love that I have difficulty seeing that as the sole reason. Almost certainly it plays in, but I severely doubt it’s the whole explanation. What, then?

My troubled history with romance can’t be it, either. I know plenty of people who have love lives far more tempestuous than mine ever was who really seem to get into the imagery of God as Lover. And here am I in the sphere of Mars, struggling with the imagery of a Venusian God.

Intellectually I can acknowledge that the Bible does talk about God using the images of Bridegroom, Husband and Lover, but I don’t feel very comfortable with that imagery on a personal and emotional level. It feels… unnatural. Nearly blasphemous, sometimes. The relationship of Lover and Beloved is one of equals, something which our relationship with God is definitely not. Painting God so exclusively as Lover seems like trying to bring Him down to our level, or raising ourselves up to His. And the near-sexual imagery is just weird. Sloppy wet kisses and falling in love, breathy bedroom-voiced worship leaders and “passionate” lyrics. Ugh.

Like the images of Judge, Mighty Warrior, Prophet, Priest and King, it’s an imperfect metaphor. I understand this intellectually. And yet I have far less problem with the conceptual non sequiturs involved in these other Scriptural portrayals of God than I do with the whole Lover thing.

Am I just an emotional midget? Shrunken, stunted, unable to truly give or receive love?

You can ask my wife, but I don’t think so. I just don’t find the romantic imagery very helpful, or even all that Scriptural sometimes.

It’s not that I have a problem with Scriptural emphasis on the love of God, either; just our modern romantic imagery for it. The Song of Songs is in the Bible, but it’s not the whole thing.

Maybe it’s just that it’s become so prevalent. I do have a bloodyminded tendency to swing away from any extreme position I encounter in a desperate search for balance.  It was reading Richard Dawkins that turned me off of evolution, after all. But I’ve had this same problem for the last 12 years.

I returned from Central Asia, where the dominant theme of the new Church’s worship was “Jesus is risen; He’s alive; He’s beaten the power of the enemy” just in time for Matt Redman’s Intimacy to be released.

I wasn’t feeling it then and apparently I’m still out of step with the rest of the English-speaking church. But I just do not get this whole focus on intimacy and silly romance lyrics for what ought to be worship.  From the sphere of Mars, our modern Venusian image of God is more than a little uncomfortable.

More Like Falling In Love?

Am I getting old, or is a lot of our modern Christian worship music a load of old cobblers?

I heard a song today on the Christian radio station I sometimes listen to that encapsulates the difference between where I am worship-wise and where our Christian subculture seems to be heading.

It’s by Jason Gray, and it’s supposed to be about following Jesus. The chorus says: “It’s gotta be more like falling in love/Than something to believe in,/More like losing my heart/Than giving my allegiance…”

I can see what he’s saying, sort of. Following Christ shouldn’t be some cold, distant, bloodless thing, some mere mental assent to a list of doctrinal truths. But for me right now, the language of falling in love isn’t helpful or even particularly accurate.

As a teen, I gave my heart pretty easily. There was almost always some girl I was carrying a torch for, whether she knew it or not. My love life was a string of deeply-felt but usually untold and unrequited crushes and one or two passionate but trouble-filled boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Even my courtship of the woman who is now my wife was a perilous and convoluted situation, and looking back on it it’s only by the grace of God and my own particular brand of stubbornness that we got together at all, much less have the glorious relationship we do.

My allegiance, on the other hand, is more difficult to gain. I almost feel it more deeply; I perceive it as something solid, something that touches and awakens parts of me that “falling in love” doesn’t. Falling in love is all about how I feel. If the feeling goes away, I’m no longer “in love”. Allegiance makes calls on me. It has permanence. It demands something of me, not just a feeling but an obedience. Allegiance acknowledges something greater to which I am subject: it’s no mere wishy-washy “feeling” that’s here today and gone tomorrow, but it’s a powerful state of voluntary and joyful being overruled by a greater power.

Falling in love places no such call on me, no such demands. For me, “falling in love with Jesus” makes it all about us and our feelings and desires. It’s how Jesus makes us feel, what He does for us, a shallow emotional response to the Jesus-That-Meets-Our-Needs. “Giving my allegiance” acknowledges Him as Lord. It says He has a right – the sole right, in fact – to make the rules. If He takes me somewhere dark, it’s ok, because He’s my King and I trust Him. If He demands my life, it’s ok, because He is the only One who truly has a claim on it.

And “something to believe in” rather that “falling in love”? Well, if by “believe in” you mean a cold mental assent to the existence of, like “believing in” the Tooth Fairy or “believing in” ghosts or UFOs or the Loch Ness Monster, then yeah, following Jesus is more like falling in love. But if instead you bring “believing in” back to its older meaning of “trusting your life to”, then no. Again, it’s the matter of whether Jesus has a right to make demands of us or not.

There’s a big difference between “losing your heart” to someone and trusting your life and soul to them. The one is a changeable feeling that exists as long as the other person is meeting some emotional need. The other is a surrender of who you are, an acknowledgement on a gut-deep level that come what may, there’s a bedrock confidence that there is purpose, that it will be ok, even if we never see it in the visble world. Certainty that this is the right thing, even if you don’t come back alive.

This is the kind of faith that Hebrews chapter 11 commends. The trust that led Abraham out not knowing where he was going. The trust that led Noah to spend a hundred years of obedience building a boat to save the world. The trust that led David to face Goliath despite all appearances.

Allegiance and trust. They go together because they are two sides of the same coin. Without trust on at least some level, you won’t truly give your allegiance. And without allegiance, there is no trust in that sense, because following Jesus makes demands of you. Jesus is Lord. What are you going to do about it?

I follow Him. It’s more like something to believe in – something to trust my life to – than falling in love. It’s more like giving my allegiance than losing my heart.