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All That Is Fair: Cold, Cold Heart

Sometimes when I read the Bible, I try to imagine myself in God’s shoes. In both the Old and New Testaments, there are so many places where you see a picture of God or Jesus being vulnerable about how they feel.  And in those vignettes we see a relatability, an opportunity for us as image bearers to empathize with the heart of God himself.  We learn about him in those moments, we can connect with him, and ultimately we learn about ourselves.  We learn about the dignity that all humans display when we experience grief, sorrow, pain, joy, pleasure, etc… Those emotions are dignified because the God who made us like himself also feels them! 

Matthew 26 is a good example.  Several things happen in this chapter.  Jesus foretells his death, and in the next few verses he is annointed by a woman who is in their party with very expensive oils.  The disciples grumble about how wasteful that act was, and Jesus says, “Why do you trouble this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  In those words God incarnate is saying he feels honored by her action, and he appreciates its beauty.  How many of us have felt like this before?  A close friend or spouse does something that shows their affection for us, and we become filled with joy and pleasure at the lovely gesture they have given. 

Not long after that in the chapter, Jesus enters the garden of Gethsemane with his closest friends.  He says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  Jesus is feeling the sorrow, loneliness, and anxiety of the cup he will shortly have to drink.  And in that expression of sadness, he says to his friends, “Stay with me.”  I have definitely felt deep sorrow, loneliness, and anxiety in my life, and in those moments I want to be surrounded by those safe people who love me and empathize with me in my suffering. 

Then Jesus experiences the pain of betrayal at the hand of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve and a close friend of the teacher.  After that Jesus feels the utter loneliness of being denied by Peter and abandoned by his other close friends and family. And finally, the worst of all, he was forsaken by his Father while in the midst of the most profoundly terrible moment in all of human history!  Betrayal, abandonment, utter loneliness… Unfortunately, most of us can relate! 

Along those same lines, I often will catch glimpses of that divine heart in the music that crosses between my ear buds.  If, in Scripture, we can see images of God that remind us of ourselves, then we can probably find expressions of human emotion and experience that remind us of God.  The Hank Williams song, “Cold, Cold Heart” is a fantastic example of this.

Hank was a tortured soul who was taken from this earth before the age of 30.  But in that short time, he wrote such an intensely beautiful batch of accessible poetry set to the finest melodies country music has ever seen.  “Cold, Cold Heart” is a song sung from the perspective of someone whose love is unrequited.  For all the singer can do to prove himself to his lover, they are still cold and distant.  It’s an all too common human scenario.  The poetic images in these lyrics and the sad but lovely country melody transport you to the place Hank was in when he wrote this song.  The amazing thing to me is that when I enter into mundane moments like these, I am often reminded of God. 

This song in particular makes me think of Jesus’ summation of all of the attempts God made throughout the Old Testament to woo his children, yet their hearts always fell astray to the worship of idols and the customs of other nations. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus says, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” 

It’s amazing, right?  Somehow some redneck poet, who lived hard and died young, was able to tap into an emotional space that we can see shared by Jesus himself.  He could have written this song to Jerusalem in that moment!  Whenever you stumble across a vulnerable expression like this, either in art, music, movies you consume, or in the depths of your own heart, remember the dignity that you are encountering.  Remember that the God who made you also has a heart like yours…  A heart that breaks and also bursts with joy! 

I tried so hard, my dear, to show that you’re my every dream
Yet you’re afraid each thing I do is just some evil scheme
A memory from your lonesome past keeps us so far apart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?

Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue
And so my heart is paying now for things I didn’t do
In anger, unkind words are said that make the teardrops start
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?

You’ll never know how much it hurts to see you sit and cry
You know you need and want my love, yet you’re afraid to try
Why do you run and hide from life, to try it just ain’t smart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?

There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me
But now I know your heart is shackled to a memory
The more I learn to care for you, the more we drift apart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart?