I just returned from a water aerobics class down at the pool at our community center. Back to my studies and writing. In the background, I’m listening to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing such songs as “Because of Who You Are” and “Hallelujah Anyhow.” I could houseclean to this kind of music, but I’m not cleaning. I’m contemplating the edges of Divine Majesty, eating Greek yogurt with almonds, daydreaming about my family and our future, and still seeing in my mind the crystalline, blue sparkles of the pool’s H2O. “Glory Hallelujah to the Risen King,” the choir now sings. My! My senses are being exercised in the otherwise stillness of my kitchen, where I sit on a padded stool by my counter with my laptop.
Now the choir is singing, “I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, Lord, I surrender my life — give it all to You.” The lyrics to many of the Tabernacle’s songs are so simple. So repetitious. Many complain of simple, repetitious lyrics in much contemporary Christian music.
“I surrender. I surrender. Lord, I surrender my life — I give it all to you. All to you, Jesus, all to you, Lord. I surrender, I surrender, Lord, I surrender my life — give it all to you.”
The key modulates up and the lyrics repeat. The key modulates again, and the lyrics repeat again. The keyboard and orchestra undergird the lyrics. “I surrender it all to you.”
I understand the concern regarding repetition and sometimes am concerned myself, but on the other hand, my sin nature — my “default setting” — never quits its assault upon my new nature in Christ and the presence of the Spirit within me. Biblical truths simply stated are not simple. They are transformative. The repetition of biblical concepts in pithy terms aids my spiritual digestion, just as plant based fiber and Greek yogurt aid my physical digestion. The repetition, like fiber, cleanses. The rich, smooth, condensed content, like Greek yogurt, pumps nourishment into my spirit/soul/heart. My flesh (my orientation to this world’s sirens) distracts and lulls me away from “things above” and transformed character.
So plain, pithy, repeated lyrics knock on my heart’s door over and over. The door opens and in floods the light. Some worry that the impact is just emotional because of the power of the music, but that need not be! My emotions are just as much a part of my heart, created in God’s image, as are my mind and my will. God’s message pierces my mind, will, and emotion — simultaneously and interconnectedly. Later, as I’m doing other things, as I’m waiting in line at the store losing time — the longest and slowest line — the words that have pounded my whole heart like the waves of the sea — these words surface in my memory: “I surrender, I surrender, I surrender, Lord, I surrender my life — give it all to You.” And my worry over lost time evaporates. Time’s not mine anyway. A neighbor whom I love but tends to be so repetitiously negative, complains again about the water bill, the electric bill, the distance to his favorite stores. . . . And the words in the back of my mind pulsate, “I surrender, I surrender. . . .” A gentleness not my own floods me (Rom. 5:3-5), softening my response to him.
I recognize that repetition is everywhere. The question is, how am I going to use it for good. God designed repetition as a an expression of His orderly mind, reflected within His creation. Every law of nature reflects a pattern — something that is systematically repeated under the same conditions (and sometimes differing conditions?). The apple always falls down, because of gravity. Trees and plants grow up, because of the sun. Because of the force of gravity (Col. 1:17), the planets stay in their orbits, repetitiously . The moon rises as the sun sets. The elements remain the elements with a repetitious faithfulness. Water can be counted on to be two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. The rainbow contains certain colors on which we redundantly depend.
The gifts of repetition, to name a few, are peace, stability, and uniformity. Because of repetition, the uniformity of patterns, we can learn. The patterns of the past guide us to the future. Repetition is at the heart of God’s laws of nature and is one of God’s main teaching strategies which we can employ in interpreting nature, His Word, and each other.
I’m thankful for repetition. I’m thankful for the plain yet beautiful and profound messages streaming from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I’m thankful for the faithfulness of water — at the pool to sparkle, cheer, and refresh me, and to buoyantly hold me.
Now I need to get back to my work. Grace-work. (“Repetitiously” moving my study location around my lovely house, I am now perched on my leather couch with my laptop. ) I’m researching God. Oh. Sigh. Wow. You know, if I had a cooperative, healthy body that would have left me to serve God by continuing to teach literature and writing in the classroom (grading stacks of essays and research papers – no missing these!), then I would not have the luxury of my present grace-work. “I come to the garden alone.” Here in my home, I’m studying God’s Word, writing lessons about God’s Greatness for a Christian publisher (God help me!), beginning my doctoral research project (Lord, have mercy!), and resting as I can. Drinking in God’s handiwork.
Gifts. Repetitious gifts. Sparkling water — in my glass, in my shower, in my dish pan, in the swimming pool. Repetitious lyrics. Now I’m hearing the Tabernacle choir sing from Romans 1:16 : “I am not ashamed of the Gospel! No, I am not ashamed of the Gospel! Oh, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” And now singing, “Glory, glory, glory of the cross. Worthy, worthy, worthy are You, Lord! Holy, holy are You, Lord!” Sparkling words, like the tides rolling in and out, again and again, “Glory, worthy, holy — glory worthy, holy are You, Lord!”
Thank you for nourishment during a busy day! Sue