On two different lyrics

Two different lines from a coupla songs caught my ear this weekend while I was tuned into some internet radio for a while. They are unrelated, as far as I can tell, so I’ll take them by turns.The Bilderbacks: “Heart of Flesh.” Realizing that the phrase of the song’s title is from the Bible (”And I will give you an heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26), I’m still a little puzzled by this one. Primarily it has to do with the other, more prevalent use of the word “flesh” in scripture and in evangelical religion generally to refer to sinfulness or unredeemed nature. As in John 3:6: “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So this latter association being foremost in my mind (and the radio playing as background music while I was reading and surfing around through the weekend newspapers online), my first reaction was “give me a heart of flesh? Huh? Like, give me a heart full of sin?” My point is that just because something is scriptural doesn’t make it a shoo-in as a lyrical hook for a song or a group name or something like that. Remember, “eighth day” is in the bible too.

Mike Bowling: “Solid Rock and Shifting Sand.” I’ve written before about a Bowling song that emphasizes the struggle and hardship of spiritual life and depicts the failures and shortcomings of Christian experience with an ambivalence that is much truer to lived reality than many gospel songs. But this song warrants comment all the same. “Somewhere between the solid rock and shifting sand is where I stand.” I like that a lot, because - like “Heat of the Battle” - it makes no bones about the fact of spiritual inconstancy in everyday life, admits right up front that while the vocabulary of mountains and valleys (”Life is easy when you’re up on the mountain” etc) is commonplace in evangelicalism, what people really mean by mountain-top experience is a rare moment of transcendence that comes ’round pretty infrequently in the average life, while by valleys, people usually mean “not the mountain.” Bowling’s song makes clear that there’s a difference between not being on the mountain and being in a valley. Most of the time, life is lived, much to our chagrin, in the midlands of scattered spiritual force - not a full-blown crisis (the valley, or the sinking sand), yet not anywhere near where we’d like to be (the solid rock, or the mountain top). Valleys - that is, true below-average experiences of depression or spiritual melancholy or fierce struggles or suffering that forces a re-evaluation of foundational beliefs - do come, sure. But averagely, we survey life and its spiritual prospects from the frustrating plateau of in-between: “somewhere between the solid rock and shifting sand is where we stand.”

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