I moved out of my parents’ house in the summer of 1981. I rented the lower half of a huge two-story house. The couple who lived in the upstairs apartment helped me learn the lessons of single life. One of the most enduring ideas I learned from them was a love of all things Neil Diamond.
We would play Neil Diamond albums for hours as we chatted and trounced each other at gin rummy. In the evenings, Magnum P.I. or The Love Boat might be on TV, but ol’ Neil was still singing, the sound turned way down low.
We just loved hearing his music! We wondered why his songs weren’t ALWAYS #1 on the charts. Could other people not hear his passion? Could they not feel the soul in every song? WE could sure hear it, and we loved it. So why didn’t everyone else?
And then we came to realize that we weren’t hearing the same thing everyone else did. We were listening to deep cuts from obscure albums. We heard the live recordings where he gave it his all. But the stuff on the radio, that was all studio cuts. Neil had sung the song a hundred times in a row, perhaps, until the studio was satisfied that it was perfect. In the repetition, he had produced a mechanically perfect song, but it was devoid of spirit. The body was a perfect specimen, but the soul was dead. And the masses in radio land were hearing a perfect, dead song. Small wonder he wasn’t #1 every week.
Christianity can be like this, too. Sometimes we focus so much on doing it right that we forget to live. We’re never going to be perfect. And yet, God thinks we already are. He thinks we’re to die for. That’s why he gave us grace. He just wants us to live and be happy, reveling in the knowledge that we are loved. We’re not required to be perfect. And when we try, we’re only producing a dead song. All the people hearing the dead song will not be impressed. But when we lift up our hearts to God, and let him live through us, the music will be beautiful, and others will hear and be drawn to him.
Peace, love, and jelly beans.