As a songwriter I have a few personal rules. One of them is this:
Never sacrifice the truth for cleverness
Of course we all want to be clever. We live in a society that celebrates cleverness and wit. I wish I was naturally more witty than I am.
Songwriters are familiar with a thing called “the hook”. It’s the part of the song that repeats; it’s usually in the chorus of a song, and it’s often the title. Songs like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” or the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”; guess what the hooks are in those songs?
Country music is lyric driven, which why I spent a good bit of time in Nashville when I was working my tunes. Country songs are often full of clever hooks; things like “there’s a ring where her ring used to be”. I remember once, when I was a teenager, my mom and sisters and I were cleaning out one of the storage units in our apartment building. I had a song running through my head, as usual. Did you know, by the way, that everyone usually has a song running through their head, somewhere deep in the layers of subconsciousness. Sometimes it drifts up to the conscious level. Anyway, I had this Barbara Mandrell song in my head and I remember saying out loud that I thought the lyric was so good because it was so clever. “If lovin’ you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right”.
My mom, from deep in the storage unit, responded without even looking up: “It may be clever, but I wouldn’t want to sing it.” It made me pause and think about the lyric, and she was right. Without preaching to me, she let me know that while the lyric was clever, it didn’t carry her truth.
I was in a boutique once, surrounded by all sorts of signs and garden stones and plaques with inspirational sayings on them. A number of them had these two sayings on them:
Believe In Yourself
&God Couldn’t Be Everywhere, So He Created Mothers.
I stood there, pondering those statements, and I realized that, while these may have been clever little sayings, they did not carry my truth.
First, God CAN be everywhere, cuz … he’s God! He can do what he wants. And if he chooses not to be in places that are totally evil, well, why would he want your mother to go there?
And that “Believe in Yourself, and Anything Is Possible”? I don’t think so. Not that I don’t think that positive affirmations are helpful. I think that a lot of good energy is wasted when we think with all our hearts that we can and should do something, meanwhile what we really could and should be doing is neglected.
I’m thinking we should rewrite.
“ God Can Be Everywhere. He Created Mothers.”
This is truth. And it’s kinda witty, cuz at least for the teenagers who grew up in our house, the mom mysteriously showed up in the most random places, and knew the most random things about the lives of her kids.
As for “Believe In Yourself”, I’m thinking I’d be more prone to embrace this:
"Believe in the God who believes in You"
Truth is, I really do think God knows me better than I know myself. And if He believes in me, and inspires me to do, learn, and be certain things, then I really do think I can do, learn and be those things. The trick is being still long enough to hear what He has to say. If I think God’s behind me, then I know anything is possible. But my uninspired wishful thinking will not be enough by itself…no matter how sincerely I wish.
My HOPE for today is that I do not get sucked into cleverness at the expense of truth and right. Be true…then be clever.
During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day. I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity. This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.