When I was younger, Delbert McClinton had a hit song titled "Giving' it Up For Your Love.". Sometimes I wonder if he ever really got his due, since that song sounded so much like the kinds of things that the J. Geils Band was playing at the time. If you look at it the right way, Delbert's hit might have even been thematically similar to songs like J. Geils Band's song "I Musta Got Lost." After all, both songs dealt with relationships gone bad and the male protagonists' realization of that situation, along with a promise to work to make things better.
While many preferred the longer J. Geils song, I've always been partial to Delbert, especially since he seems to be, in many ways, an under-recognized figure in American music. At this time of year, when we're passing through Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent, on our journey to the Cross and Easter, I think that this song has something to say about our faith as well.
"My heart is aching for you, I can't stand it.
I need your love, am I so demanding?"
Much as Delbert seems to be grappling for some understanding of is situation, can't you just hear Jesus saying something like this, as he's anticipating what is to come at the end of this season? Now that Christmastide has passed and we're back about "business as usual," is it possible that we've scaled back on some of those promises that we made a little over a month ago? Is it possible that, once Jesus' season was over, we began our own season and left a little bit too much back there?
Givin' it up for your love, everything.
Givin' it up for your love right now.
I'm givin' it up for your love honey, everything.
Givin' it up for your love some how"
We know how this season is supposed to end for Jesus, and we absolutely depend on the hope that comes after that. With that in mind, many people observe the Lenten season by looking at their life and giving something up as a means of being more in touch with what Jesus gave up and of feeling some small bit of pain that might bring us into a sense of unity with the greater pain that Jesus experienced. Some people use this season as a motivation to give up on things that might already be bad for them, like smoking or french fries. Others give up something that they know is an important part of their lives, such as a meal on a given day, with the knowledge that every time they think of that "missing piece," they'll be reminded of Christ's suffering. Others merely offer something easy, without giving it much thought, like broccoli, as a means to connect with the Christian event without investing much. Still others do combinations of all these things. Regardless of the choices, Lent can be a season about giving something up and learning what it means to sacrifice, even if only for a little while. For many, this might be too important an opportunity to miss.
I know you told me that you'd always love me.
And I believed it was true, yeah.
So I saved the best and I'm ready.
My love only just for you, yeah"
Some of the most powerful songs I've ever heard about the Passion say something like this. I imagine Jesus thinking something similar every time I revisit the events of that week and the glory of the Sunday morning that follows. Sure, Delbert was really making a statement of commitment in the midst of a struggling relationship, but it is a powerful statement that might be applied to a number of struggling relationships. As we see our stories and good feelings about the Christ child recede even further into our rear-view mirrors, our faith relationships often lose their sense of immediacy and urgency. Maybe we need to think more about the kind of effort it takes to keep those feelings, and the Lenten narrative is, in that light, a pretty precious gift.
I'm not about to anoint Delbert as the Next Great Prophet, and there is more to the song that has some interesting theological implications. He has had a long career of moving people through his songs - especially for a someone who is not among the first that come to mind when thinking about late Twentieth-Century music. Still, in this song, he captures a lot of feelings about relationships and their struggles that may apply to all of us, albeit in another context. Lent is upon us. Jesus' heart is aching for us. He's saved the best for last and is ready. What are you willing to give up?