Not-Real and Real

Lately I've been listening to a lot of music by Sandra McCracken. At first listen, her music does not always have the most polished sound. Or something. I'm sort of an atrocious music critic, because what sells me is the same thing that sells me on a movie: the story.

And her songs have story.

I've especially been appreciating her song Lock and Key.

You can hold your world inside
You can scream out loud
Or you can fight these enemies
And kid fears tonight if you want to

You can drive your car out to L.A.
You can lose yourself just to make your way
You can change your mind
Or change your name if you want to

But you're under lock and key
All by yourself
And sometimes you just need somebody else

I cannot read your complex mind
I can't understand
All the reasons why
But if you let me in, I can try if you want me to

And I can say I'm sorry if you wanna hear it
It might be too little too late, my dear
I can't take back the pain of all those years, but I want to

But you're under lock and key
All by yourself
And sometimes you just need somebody else

If you want someone by your side
I could build a bridge
Across the river where we can
Wash these broken pieces downstream...
Do you trust me?

But you're under lock and key
All by yourself
And sometimes you just need somebody else

Sometimes you just need --- somebody else.

I feel like that's the song of my semester. Please note that it really has been a great semester so far. My classes are great, or at least easy; Dag is going well; I love all three of the girls I live with, and C1 is around. My college world is pretty great.

But I've also been smacked in the face (very lovingly, of course) over the past year or so with the fact that I have trust issues. Maybe we all do, but I don't have to deal with everyone's, do I? It can be pretty well boiled down to a few things, namely, hubris and fear of vulnerability. Oh, I love people, and I love getting to know people... but only to a point.

When that becomes me asking for help, I'll shut down a lot. Which usually works fine for my purposes, because I think a lot of people are content to not be asked for help.

Yet sometimes I do need someone else.

So my friend Elaine and I talked a lot recently about this sort of stuff. We both have a lot of miserable memories of things that we failed on, decisions that we second guess and break with sadness at the consequences and wish that we could have done differently, could have known more, could have...

Some days it seems like both of us breathe in rhythm with the pain of the Newsboys' song Elle G: "Every old demon/ playing back a crime// If they'd needed blood/ I'd have gladly given mine." But there are costs that you cannot pay, however much you're willing to. You can't change the past, the decisions that you made, or that other people made.

It's a variant of what I term the "what-if game". And it is deadly and destructive, poisonous and addictive, so easy to see someone else doing and tell them to snap out of, so hard to snap myself out of. It seems so innocent. But it strikes at the very root of who He made us to be. It whispers, You did badly. You are bad. You can say, "I just want to consider what I could do differently if the situation comes up again." Yeah right. It is a self-bashing that is a denial of the sovereignty of God, and a time when I need to preach to myself, as John Piper calls it.

A time when I need to hear the words of John...

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. [I John 3:16-24]

Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart...

That is easy to say, hard to believe.

It's hard to believe the truth, to reject the lies.

Suzanne Collins concretized it nicely in her book Mockingjay:

Peeta's sitting in a circle with the soldiers from 13, who are armed but talking openly with him. Jackson has devised a game called "Real or Not Real" to help Peeta. He mentions something he thinks happened, and they tell him if it's true or imagined, usually followed by a brief explanation.

"Most of the people from Twelve were killed in the fire."

"Real. Less than nine hundred of you made it to Thirteen alive."

"The fire was my fault."

"Not real. President Snow destroyed Twelve the way he did Thirteen, to send a message to the rebels."

Sometimes you just need somebody else.

Somebody to say Real or Not Real.

"I wasn't ready," I cried out to Elaine.

"You were," she said.

We're both right. In the specific situation that was under discussion, there was a lot that would have been beneficial for me to know. But there was no way for me to have known it, to have known that I needed to know that... no matter how many layers I take it back, there wasn't another way. And she is right, because for me to say that I was not ready is for me to challenge God's timing. Don't I believe that He is sovereign? That He knows best? That He put me where I was, with all my ignorance and naivete, for His own purposes? Maybe His purposes were not what I thought they were.


And she added, "You only remember when the stakes are high and you failed. You don’t ever remember the ones where the stakes were low, or when the stakes were high and you succeeded. You only remember when you failed and the stakes were too high to do that."

Because I am naturally contentious (which she may have been taking slight advantage of), I pretty immediately started coming up with situations where the stakes were high and things worked out without all the collapsing brokenness.

Know what? There were a lot of them. And some of them were huge. And my guess is that we tend to know way more of the situations where everything went wrong and we fell short than the ones where it was enough. The It's a Wonderful Life phenomenon.

And it's something to wrestle with, because I don't want to pass off my mistakes as fated. I want to give all that I am to being faithful, to living faithful.

But I am also called to heal and be healed, to make things right and to be made right. To trust Him and to trust the people He has put around me.

To be content to be human, finite and fragile.

So I work on learning to sing another song by Sandra McCracken, Now and Then
Stay with me now and then
From all sides hem me in
Sing me a song
So I can close my eyes

and in church today, we sing Zephaniah 3:17.

And I remember.

And rejoice.

And trust.

And it is good.

Yahweh your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.


  1. I see you have given me a lot to think about. I think we will be surprised after death at some of the real/not real things we are told... I can see C S working that into a book...


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