a perfect song
Some songs are pretty much perfect.
Melody, lyric, arrangement, tempo, voice and instruments merge: no element drawing attention to itself, creating an immersion, an environment for an experience…an experience that writer, composer, and performer all grasped intimately enough to convey to each other first and us eventually. Driving home today, a song just like that comes on again for the first time since the last time quite a while ago, and it takes me where it always does…turn down the lights, turn down the bed, turn down these voices inside my head…smiling through the windshield at half-remembered pain, toothless now, as her voice rises…I can’t make you love me if you don’t; you can’t make your heart feel something it won’t…
How do love relationships ever even get a chance? How among the thousands of faces you see every day, do you find one you realize you can love, which also among those thousands of faces, finds yours and sees it in the same way? At the same time? In the same timezone? Seems odds are hopelessly against, and life bears out that we will often find faces we can love but never ourselves reflected there…here in the dark, in these final hours, I will lay down my heart, and I’ll feel the power, but you won’t…
There’s a wail that comes up, silently at first, when the final cut comes, the full realization that this face is not yours to love…morning will come, and I’ll do what’s right, just give me till then to give up this fight… We all know this pain—it’s as close as the next song, muted only as much as time and healing allow. And if we know it…does God know it too? Is that even possible? I’ve come to understand that this pain is a necessary part of life—that love from another is only as valuable as it is freely chosen. That if it can be bought or in any way coerced, it is a transaction and no longer love.
And so I’m thinking this perfect song, passionately about unrequited romantic love, could as easily be sung by God to each one of us. Our relationship with God has always been portrayed in intimately human terms by those who know him best. Does that metaphor extend to God as well? Did God personally risk anything by creating us with the capacity to refuse? Can his heart break like ours when he doesn’t see the relationship he wants in the face he loves? Maybe God could make us love him, but maybe he won’t, because if he did, we would no longer be us, and love would no longer be love: deprived of the one thing both need to be what they are…a choice freely made.
I can’t know if God feels the pain of unrequited love, but I’m convinced he knows that for love to be real, it first has to set the beloved free. Like a perfect song: love, loss, hope, rejection, pain, fulfillment merging, none drawing attention to itself, creating an immersion, an environment for an experience…the reason we are all here singing.
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