Monday, June 3, 2013

Pondering the Product and the Process: "Mostly Just Hyde"

Both the product and the process of my latest ditty have gotten me thinking.

First, the process.  I have a journal where I doodle lines and phrases of poems-in-progress.  I’ve got about a dozen “solid starts,” and many more “seeds of ideas”.  The journal was given to me by a friend over five years ago.  It wasn’t until I finished this lyric a couple of days ago that I realized that the “Jekyll and Hyde” idea was something I had messed around with on the very first page of my journal.

In truth, I am already well-aware that I am a better “starter” than I am a “finisher.”  Kind of by a lot.  But still: Five years?  Wow.

What’s especially curious for me is that I finished this after deciding that I really wanted to finish one of my fragments.  It was about 3 weeks ago, and I thought, "I gotta finished something."  “Mostly Just Hyde” wasn’t even the one that I first attacked.  I worked on another fragment, hit a wall, then bounced over to this one, and finished it.

While my commitment to finish something preceded my completion of this, I still feel as though finishing “Mostly Just Hyde” was largely out of my hands.  With most of what I write, I feel like I am at the mercy of ideas.  They either come or they don’t.  It was like this when I used to write sermons, too.  I would sit down and be like, “OK, God, what have you got?”

Even now, I’m not sure what I did differently that caused me to finish this lyric instead of just add an idea or two.  I’ve got theories, and how I frame them is related to how I reconcile the Christian paradox of “free will” versus “God’s sovereignty”.  Was God waiting for me to earnestly commit to something, at which point he laid out the path of completion?  Did I initially commit to finishing something because God intended me to do so?  Am I choosing to cooperate with God?  Does he even need me to?

Surprisingly, I don’t expect to exhaustively resolve this theological mystery to everyone’s satisfaction in this blog post (resolving “free will” and “God’s sovereignty” deserves a post all to itself).  But my takeaway is this: Maybe finishing things isn’t as hard as I think it is.  Maybe God is on board with me finishing more things.  Maybe he’s ready to finish right alongside me.

So that’s the process.  About the product: I’m a little ambivalent about it.  In some ways, I don’t advocate the theology behind it.  The motif, as you’ll see, is “Jekyll and Hyde” as a metaphor for what I sometimes feel like in my attempts to follow Jesus.  I think most Christians can relate.

But maybe we can relate a little too much.  I don’t believe God intends for us to commit ourselves him and then spend the rest of our lives in a constant tug-of-war between “who we are” and “who we used to be.”  This lyric may suggest that God intends for the Christian life to be one of constant struggle, and that the goal is to struggle more diligently for “the good side.”

I think that the intended struggle is at least one step removed from this idea; I think the struggle should be between “struggling” and “realizing that it doesn’t have to be as much of a struggle as we think.”  Of course there are passages in the New Testament that talk about how difficult it is to follow Jesus.  But there are also passages that talk about how easy it is, and how the power of sin in our lives is an illusion.  Paul, especially, has a knack for making things seem pretty easy, like in Romans 6:6 when he writes, “…we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”  Oh, is it that easy?  Well, it kind of is.  Paul might suggest that if you’re pitting “Jekyll” and “Hyde” against each other and expecting the participants to be somewhat evenly matched, you’re already ascribing to a flawed view of the Spirit-filled life.  Maybe the hard part is believing that it doesn’t have to be so hard.

I believe that artists are somewhat responsible for how their work is interpreted.  So, for the record, my hope is that struggling souls may read this and take heart in realizing that they are not alone, and that relatively normal followers of Christ sometimes feel torn between these poles.  On the other hand, my hope is that struggling souls will not read this as an endorsement of the life of perpetual struggle.  At least sometimes—and I can’t say how much or in what ways—it shouldn’t be a struggle, even if this lyric may suggest otherwise.


     Mostly Just Hyde

It’s like the beast with Dr. Jekyll, but with me it is reversed.
I came to God with raging flesh, burdened by the curse.
He calmed me with his potion and subdued the beast inside.
He named me Dr. Jekyll and he banished Mr. Hyde.

Why, oh why, I can’t tell you I summoned Hyde again.
I told him where I lived and when he knocked I let him in.
He’s like that loser college bud who always calls you “bro”
Then reminds you that you owe him when you say it’s time to go

Some days I’m Dr. Jekyll and some I’m mostly just Hyde
Some days I choose to follow you some days I can’t decide
I conveniently forget some days my flesh is crucified
Some days I’m Dr. Jekyll and some I’m mostly just Hyde

I’m Mr. Hyde’s accomplice ‘cause it’s me who let him in
Then I let myself be charmed by his warm, seductive grin.
He mentions “good old days” and he offers me a hit
And he glares inside my soul when I tell him that I’ve quit

He asks me who I’m kidding, and he claims to really know me
And he says there’s more to life and he’d really like to show me.
I see his lips are moving which is how I know he’s lying
But it’s easy to forget, some days, that Mr. Hyde dying

Some days I’m Dr. Jekyll and some I’m mostly just Hyde
Some days I play the harlot and some I’m the faithful bride
Who I am and what I think some days don’t coincide
Some days I’m Dr. Jekyll and some I’m mostly just Hyde

So Dr. God, prescribe for me some pill to make me strong
Some tonic or elixir that will make Hyde run along
Some transformation stabilizer that will make me see
That no matter what he says, Mr. Hyde—he isn’t me