Country Music, Theology and Life

July 18th, 2012 · by Tom Stuart · I wish I'd said that., Life Balance

Some day, I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin’ – like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what you’d do with it.  Live Like You Were Dying (by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman)

As a late blooming convert to American Country Music I have come to appreciate the occasional undercurrents of theology woven into the fabric of its lyrics.  One of the credos I have noticed that often surfaces is the belief in the value of slowing down and enjoying the simpler things of life.

In contrast to that, I don’t know if I ever recall hearing so many people comment on how fast the summer is racing by.  Having already crossed the midpoint of July and now finding ourselves striding into the second half of summer has a way of awakening our sensibilities to the fleeting nature of life. 

I was driving in the car several days ago thinking about this very thing and happened to have my radio dial tuned to a country station.  Two songs came on in quick succession that really caught my attention.  The central theme of each song’s lyrics was about the virtue of trying to slow down the pace of life.

First I heard Toby Keith singing a song entitled “My List.”  In the song we learn he’s put aside his “to do list” for the day “under an old brass paperweight” because it’s time to “start livin’ – that’s the next thing on my list.”  He explains “Cuttin’ the grass just had to wait, ‘cause I’ve got more important things, like pushin’ my kid on the backyard swing.”  You get the gist of the song.  “Go for a walk, say a little prayer, take a deep breath of the mountain air.  Put on my glove, play some catch, it’s time I make time for that.”  Amen, preach it brother!  It’s a new millennium version of the 1970’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” song except this time the old man gets it right before it’s too late.

Next I heard Trace Atkins come on singing the ballad “You’re Gonna Miss This.”  The song’s point of view is that of an older parent trying to give the familiar “slow down and enjoy life” advice to a grown daughter.  Her problem, like so many of us, is that she is so busy planning and living for the future that she is not enjoying the present.  First she’s a teenager wanting to get out on her own.  Then she’s a bride living in a small apartment and wanting children and a house.  Then five years later she’s a mother with two crying, screaming kids, a broken water heater, barking dog and the phone’s ringing.   At each juncture Trace croons “Baby, just slow down.  Cuz you’re gonna miss this.  You’re gonna want this back.  You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.”

And then, as a final theological caveat, Trace leaves her with a Romans 8:28 perspective. “These are the good times, so take a good look around, you may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.”  Yes, Virginia, there is a God!  And He causes “all things do work together for good” so enjoy the season you are in now!

That’s good preachin’ if I ever heard it, Country Gospel if you will, delivered with both love and truth.  It touches the heart and puts just enough of a sappy smile on your face that when the truth socks you in the mouth it doesn’t cut your lip.

Arguably one of the most impacting if not the most memorable Country songs on this topic was the 2004 release by Tim McGraw of “Live Like You Were Dying.”  There is nothing like a life threatening disease to really get a guy’s attention when it comes to the preciousness of life.  You’re probably most familiar with the refrain “I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing, I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.” But the message of that song went much deeper than an epicurean, hedonistic, grab-for-all-the gusto-you-can philosophy of life.  More importantly the forty-year old man in the song had a revelation with regard to his relationships.  “And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.” “I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t. An’ I became a friend a friend would like to have.” 

And then we learn the theological underpinnings of such a commitment. “Well, I finally read the Good Book, and I took a good long hard look at what I’d do if I could do it all again.”

It is sad that it often takes a crisis to awaken us to how life is really meant to be lived.  Age has a way of doing that as well.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We do not have to wait until then, nor have to experience the too-soon-old, too-late-smart syndrome.  According to good ol’ Country Music Theology, no-regrets living can start today simply by putting our “to do” list aside under a paperweight, taking a good look around at what we might one day miss and beginning to live like we were dying.

What have you learned about slowing time down and enjoying the moment?

Click Here for an email subscription to this blog.

5 Responses to “Country Music, Theology and Life”

  1. wildhoney3233 July 19, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Before I read this I was mourning how fast the summer was going and how little time I will have with family members this summer before returning to work overseas. Then I met a new friend for lunch and realized that I am never disappointed in spending time with people and letting time slow down.

    One of the lessons I have learned in all of my travel over the last year (8 countries and counting!), is that as an American I don’t know how to slow down and let go of my to-do list. I’m getting pretty good at it now though. I know that what I may think is a quick run to get errands done may lead into having coffee with a friend or that going out with someone for a specific purpose, like buying a battery, will turn into hours of browsing and then possibly eating a meal together. When sharing meals or drinks with friends I expect now that it will take a few hours. There will be a before dinner drink and conversation, the meal and conversation, and then more conversation and finally, coffee or tea as, inevitably, more people will join us, and the conversation will go on and so will the serving of coffee or tea. I never walk away sad about it though or get stressed about the things I had to get done that will now have to wait. I’ve learned that slowing down is an investment in people and it’s an investment that never goes bad.

    To counter this relaxed lifestyle, I have also learned how to accomplish my to-do list early in the day (getting in a work-out, doing the dishes or laundry, etc.) so that when I walk out the door I am ready to let life happen at will without any planning on my part. It always sends a few surprises my way too.

    Great post today, Tom!! I’m thankful to be reminded of it BEFORE I get home to see family so I can make the very most of my time at home.

  2. THIS LIFE STYLE LOOKS GOOD BUT I DO THINK THAT WE STILL NEED TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR FUTURE PLANS AND NOT JUST LIVE FOR THE DAY. EVEN THOUGH THE WORD SAYS THAT WE ARE NOT TO WORRY…….THAT THE LORD EVEN PROVIDES FOR THE BIRDS OF THE AIR……I HAVE FRIENDS THAT DO LIVE FOR THE MOMENT…….THEY HAVE CREDIT CARD DEBT, NO SAVINGS OR PLANS FOR WHEN THEY RETIRE-IF THEY WILL BE ABLE TO-BUT THEY ARE HAVING A “GOOD TIME FOR THE DAY”. WHERE IS THE BALANCE?

  3. WildHoney – thanks for sharing how you are learning to balance your life and make room for enjoying the relationships that God has given you. I like the idea of making it a priority to focus on to do list type stuff early in the morning so there is a greater freedom later to let life happen. It seeks to address the tension between planned to do’s and the impromptu. Tom

  4. Ann – thanks for your thought provoking response. You raise a very important point which poses the tension between wise planning and living fully in the moment. You make an excellent case for planning. Proverbs 16:9 says”In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” This verse seems to address that tension in saying that ultimately we need to put God at the center of our planning and then always be open in the pursuit of those plans to God’s interruptions and preemptive adjustments. Tom

  5. Timotheus Bahl July 21, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Grand Lesson ! I follow this way– Life is Short, live fast; but follow Patience, since God is not in hurry.

Leave a Reply