The Price Of Honesty
About 20-something years ago, I heard a Keith Green song called "My Eyes are Dry." The first line said, "my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold." Wow... I'm not sure I can imagine hearing that on Christian radio today, nor can I picture it being displayed across a giant screen while the masses sing, hands raised and eyes closed. But I remember hearing those words as a high school kid, a couple decades after they'd been written and recorded, and thinking "that's me."
I'm not sure I know all the reasons why we have pushed such songs to the sidelines, but I think we're in danger of losing something. It's that thing we find in the Psalms, when David says, "why are you so downcast, O my soul?" It's a follower of God admitting, "hey, some days I don't have it." When I read those lines in the Psalms, I feel a great sense of comfort, knowing that a mighty man of God felt low, scared, small…like me.
You know, I read in the Scriptures that "his strength is made perfect in my weakness," but I hear co-writers and publishers saying, "hey, let's not go there." So we continue to write about one side of the story - the triumph, the victory, the smile. I think, if we're being completely honest, sure, we'll still write some victory songs, because that's a very real part of our lives in God - it's the goal, the arrival. But we'll also write some songs about our failings, because that's a very real part of it too. In the present climate, we writers may pay a price, in that those songs that deal with weakness are less likely to be recorded, less likely to sweep the church like wildfire - and dare we say - less likely to generate revenue. That may the price of total honesty.
I wonder, though, what price are we paying by not being completely honest? Are there kids, moms, dads, who will labor in a solitary sense of not-good-enough-ness, wondering why they don't have such an exuberant faith? Will they think following Christ is only for happy, settled, upbeat folks who have it all figured out? Is that the price when we hide part of the truth? Or could they benefit from hearing more expressions of human weakness, songs that affirm them even in their doubts and failures, but ultimately draw them to the only Source of strength? No, we certainly don't want to place all the focus on our frailty, at the expense of celebrating his restorative and redemptive work. He must be the focus and the point of our worship at all times. But there's a way to acknowledge who we are at the same time. Beloved, yes, praise God. Restored, absolutely. But still…sometimes broken.
So what are our goals as songwriters in the faith? Are we willing to be honest and transparent in our own congregations, on our own recordings, even if these songs won't make it to the top of the CCLI rankings? Do we see the value there? I hope we do, and I hope we'll never use the promise of popularity, acclaim, or income as a reason to limit ourselves to one side of the story.