The concept of an anthem, a personal musical anthem, first surfaced in college. When I had to choose what song would play when I came out on stage for the date auction. Yes, a date auction. Men and women were auctioned off to the highest bidder for one date night, and all of the proceeds when to the charity selected for the evening. It was a blend of awkwardness and confidence. And the song you picked mattered. (Though in the end the people that bought you were usually your friends who pooled their measly college funds together, or your significant other at the time was expected to show up and rescue you from this debacle.) I always chose American Woman by Lenny Kravitz.
I would choose something different today.
It would not fit with the tone of the event, the odd juxtaposition of trying to come off as sexy so you could raise money for charity. Perhaps this was a precursor to my other awkward philanthropic career in bikini snowmobile racing to help those with breast cancer. But I digress. Considerably…
I would choose something different today.
There is a song that makes me cry every time I hear it, because it’s who I want to be. It’s my goal in life. What I am striving to become. It’s a challenge, it’s impossible to achieve every moment of every day. It is my aspiration. But for the sake of the journey, and your willingness to go on it with me, let’s break it down.
Let me be filled… with kindness… and compassion… for the one
You could be filled with a lot of things. Anger. Hurt. Jealousy. Envy. Greed. A desire for revenge. A desire to hurt those who hurt us. Or… I could be filled with kindness. With compassion. But for whom?
The one for whom You loved and gave Your Son
Oh. For the people in this world that Jesus died on the cross for. Shocker, he died for everyone. Every one. So, I need to be filled with kindness and compassion for everyone. Not just the people who believe what I believe. Who look like me or think like me or make decisions like me. Not just for those I agree with, or follow, or watch. But every… one. That’s tougher than being an American Woman…
For humanity… increase my love
You mean all of humanity? Yep, and not just for every one in America. But for all humans, every where, in every race and every religion. And on top of that… increase my love. Don’t be content with the level of giving, or sacrificing or kindness and compassion… but increase it. That’s a goal. Increase the love I GIVE. Not the love I attempt to receive. Giving takes action on my part. Intentional action.
Help me to love with open arms like You do
Love is a verb. Not a feeling. Not something fleeting. It’s an act, over and over again in ways that are sacrificial. Open arms say, “I’m not afraid of you.” They ignore the fact that you might hurt me… again. They ignore the fact that you might ignore my gift, that you might misunderstand my words. God loved me regardless of how I might respond. I’m called to love regardless of how someone will respond. Regardless of whether I will get anything in return. And this gift is not reciprocal. I don’t give because you love me… I give love because God is my example to love first. Not wait for love before I decide.
A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth
We draw a lot of lines. We like boxes. We put each other in between these four little lines with 90-degree angles and then we treat each other based on the boxes we’ve placed each other (or ourselves) inside of. Left. Right. American. Immigrant. Muslim. Evangelical (I really dislike that word). But love erases lines. This isn’t some hippy dippy flower child approach that ignores the world. It’s harder than that. It removes the lines and says regardless of what you believe or what you do..
The truth… is that you are valuable because God created you.
And because God created you, you have value. And because of that I will value you. I will choose to value you and love you and respect you. Not because of what you have or haven’t done, but because I don’t believe God makes mistakes. I believe he made you. So, I will see that truth, and love you regardless of any lines you or other people drew around you.
Oh that when they look in my eyes they would see You
I want to care about you and love you in ways that are so counter culture and ridiculous, that you see God. That you realize there is no way human beings with all of our faults would act that way of our own volition. But rather when I choose to care about you, without the lines, because I believe God created you and you have inherent value… when that happens you will see that God loves you. I am just a vessel.
Even in just a smile they would feel the Father’s love
That I would put the phone down, lift my eyes up, hold the door, say thank you, say please, smile… that I would stop what I’m doing to listen. That I would treat you like the most valuable part of my day and not an interruption. That I would treat you the way Jesus would treat you if he were right in front of you. He would sit down and listen. He would give you his attention. And you would feel God, right there too. I wish I could exude God’s presence through something as simple as a smile.
Oh how You love us, from the homeless to the famous and in between
I want to be reminded that God doesn’t love anyone more than anyone else. He doesn’t love Americans the most. He loves every one he created. That includes me. That includes you. That includes the person you can’t stand. The person you post memes about. The candidate you bash. The political party you picket for. The one you picket against. I don’t want to show favoritism. This song reminds me that I shouldn’t hold grudges. Or pick sides.
‘Cause You formed us, You made us carefully
We have value because God created us. If you don’t believe that you were created carefully, hold your breath. Go on. I’ll wait… You had to take a breath again. Tonight, your body will need to rest and sleep. You’ll need food and water for your brain to function (and coffee, let’s not forget coffee.) We are intricate. Talk to a doctor, or a nurse… humans are complicated and nuanced. We were created carefully and we are different. And there is purpose in the differences. I am called to love the differences.
‘Cause in the end we’re all your children
All. You. Me. Them. (However you define “them”). All. I’m not sure I can stress that word enough. The person you dislike and avoid. The person you call all the time because they are your best friend. The person you’ve never met on the other side of town. We are all on the same side. Even when we disagree. We are all created by God. For a purpose bigger than ourselves that is not for our benefit. We are all in this together.
Let all my life tell of who You are
If this is your anthem, your life song, then this could be the hardest part. Let ALL my life… not just Sunday morning at church. But in the parking lot afterward. At the restaurant waiting for the table. When they get my order wrong. When I get cut off. Let ALL my life… not just when I get what I want or things are easy. But when I get stood up. When my text is not returned. When my prayer doesn’t get answered. When the answer is no. When someone I love dies. Let ALL my life… the moments when I am susceptible to arrogance. When I get a bonus check. Let ALL my life… when I forget a deadline. When you hurt my feelings. When I am tired, or hungry or hangry… Let ALL my life what? Tell of who God is. Not who I am. Not what I can do. Not my accomplishments or my to do list or my desires. But let all my life and how I handle the good and the bad moments and everything in between be a reflection of God. Do I respond with love? joy? peace? patience? kindness? goodness? faithfulness? gentleness? with self-control? Or do I make excuses?
And the wonder of Your neverending love
Never ending love. This is more than 70 x 7 times. It’s unconditional. A love without conditions. A love with conditions says I’ll do this IF, you do that. I’ll only be loyal to you IF you’re loyal to me. That is a love with conditions. That is love that ends. God’s love is never ending. I aspire to give love, to actively sacrificially as a verb, love endlessly. Not because it’s easy. But because that is how God loves me, it is my example, to love in this ridiculous way. To show there is a better way to end the cycle.
Oh, let all my life tell of who you are
All my life. Even the moments where I don’t feel like it.
That You’re wonderful and such a good Father, That You are wonderful and such a good Father
I know that God is good. When Christian’s use weird terminology like “testimony” this is what we’re talking about. That we can share the goodness of God with others. Not everyone had a good Father. But if you’re looking for an example, look to God. He listens with never ending patience. No matter how many times we make mistakes, he never walks away. He waits patiently for us to come back. He gives beautiful gifts like sunrises and sunsets. He made a way for us to spend eternity with him, which involved a sacrifice we could never fathom.
Help me to love with open arms like You do. A love that erases all the lines and sees the truth. Oh that when they look in my eyes they would see You. Even in just a smile they would feel the Father’s love.
I’m not sure this song would have generated a lot of bids at that date auction in college. Walking down the row and onto the stage, wondering who would bid on me… back then I cared. I didn’t want to stand there, exposed and vulnerable hoping someone would pick me.
And now I know the secret.
God already picked me. For something amazing.
God already picked you. For something amazing.
We have the opportunity to love with open arms, defy all human logic, erase the lines we’ve created and choose each moment to be the difference. To love the person in front of us, beside us, behind us, against us and for us. That even with just a smile, they might know…
Photo Credit: Haley A Photography