I like Country music. I grew up listening to it. I remember listening to my parent’s Johnny Cash LP in the first grade. I’m from Texas and I play the fiddle, so I probably should like Country music. I sang all kinds of Country songs for several years on various shows while we lived in Texas. Country music is quintessentially American music that is generally about family, relationships, and of course trucks, trains, and dogs. (Unfortunately, Country music also has a bit of a reputation for being a little sad and negative. Rascal Flatts even put out a song that elaborates on the joke, “What happens when you play a Country song backwards? You get your wife back, and your dog back, and your house back, …”)
I’m fascinated by Zephaniah 3:17, a verse which refers to God singing over us. As a singer, I like to think about God singing. What kinds of songs do you think He sings? Do you think He has a favorite genre of music? After reflecting on the lyrics of a few Country songs, I began to consider what old Country songs God might or might not sing. I’m not referring to overtly gospel or patriotic songs or drinking songs. I’m sure it goes without saying that God wouldn’t sing “Whiskey River Take My Mind,” for example, but what about some of these:
“It’s Hard to be Humble” (written by Mac Davis, 1980): This tongue-in-cheek song is about a man who is quite pleased with his own appearance. He laments the difficulties of being humble when “you’re perfect in every way.” The guy is so arrogant and obnoxious, it’s quite obvious that this is not a song God would sing; however, I find it ironic that God is really the only one who can honestly sing about being “perfect in every way.” At times it is “hard to be humble,” but Jesus lived a perfect example of humility in perfection for us that we are to imitate (Phil. 2:1ff). While He could sing this one, it is definitely a “no.”
“Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares” (written by Travis Tritt, 1991): The man in this song is angry with his former wife/girlfriend. Apparently, she cheated on him and is now trying to apologize and restore their relationship. His angry response is “here’s a quarter, call someone who cares,” because I don’t. During the times in our lives when we are wandering in the wilderness, searching and praying for guidance from the Lord and we feel like He is withholding answers from us, we may feel as if we’re receiving this response from God. King David wrote a number of laments, begging God to listen to him, to hear his prayers, and to answer him (Psalm 17; 39; 61; 84; 86; 143). He may have felt like the Lord was singing over him: “Call someone who’ll listen and might give a [darn] … here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” Although we may feel like this at times, I guarantee God does not sing this over us. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8 NIV).
“Rose Garden” (written by Joe South, 1971) —- The singer of this song is reminding their loved one that there will be bad times in their relationship, but that’s not a reason to break-up or leave the relationship. Life will not always be rosy. “I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden…” Jesus essentially told us this same thing when He said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). The apostle Peter echoes this same sentiment when he said we should “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12 NIV). God might very well sing this song over us when we complain about our trials or struggles. He just might remind us “I never promised you a rose garden,” at least here on earth, although He does promise a beautiful garden when we see Him face to face (Rev. 22).
“Before He Cheats” (written by Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, 2008): In this song, the singer has exacted all kinds of revenge on her boyfriend/husband because he cheated on her. She punishes his misdeeds by keying his truck, smashing his headlights, and slashing his tires. This is the song that started my reflection on what Country songs God might sing. Some people tend to see God as the big sheriff in the sky who is sitting on the edge of His seat, just waiting to exact revenge on us for all of our sins and misdeeds, just like the singer of this song. They believe God has sent various curses and bad events into their lives after they have sinned, and then He follows that up by blowing the smoke from His pistol and singing: “Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats (or lies, or …whatever).” Our God is not out to get us. He is loving and forgiving. “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:9-12 NIV). He does not find pleasure in beating up on His children every time they mess up. He does not sing this song over us. I think instead, He might sing something more like this next song.
“Whoever’s in New England” (written by Kendal Franceschi and Quentin Powers, 1986): The singer of this song believes her husband is cheating on her because of all his long trips up to New England and his willingness to spend so much time away from her. But rather than exacting revenge like the woman in “Before He Cheats,” she lets him know that she will be waiting patiently and graciously until he decides to return home to her. She tells him, “You know it’s not too late ‘cause you’ll always have a place to come back to when whoever’s in New England’s through with you.” In the same way, God is also “patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isa 44:22). And the prophet Joel advises us to “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13). This is a song God might sing over us.
What Country song lyrics or titles bring Scripture to mind for you and strike you as a song God would or would not sing over us?