Sunday, January 25, 2009

Songs to Die For--"If Heaven"

I know nothing about country music, but I just heard this song for the first time at Stony Creek Digest, the blog of my cyber-friend Jeff Culbreath. "If Heaven," by Andy Griggs.

I note the allusion to "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes"--"If heaven was a tear, it'd be my last one."

My "Songs to Die For" series started here, with "Poor, Wayfarin' Stranger," almost a year and a half ago now. They don't have their own label. I probably should give them one, but for now they are scattered among the "hymns" and "songs that are not hymns" label. They are (almost) all songs related to death or heaven.

"If Heaven" has several unexpectedly profound things in it. For example, there is the verse that begins, "If Heaven was a pie it would be cherry," which hardly seems like a promising beginning. But then there is this line: "And just one bite would satisfy your hunger/And there'd always be enough for everyone." Which reminded Eldest Daughter, when she heard it, of the following section of Dante:

"It is because your desires are fixed where the part is lessened by sharing that envy blows the bellows to your sighs; but if the love of the highest sphere bent upward your longing, that fear would not be in your breast. For there, the more they are who say ours, the more of good does each possess and the more of charity burns in that cloister....That infinite and unspeakable good which is there above speeds to love as a sunbeam comes to a bright body; so much it gives of itself as it finds of ardour, so that the more charity extends the more does the eternal goodness increase upon it, and the more souls that are enamoured there above the more there are to be rightly loved and the more love there is and like a mirror the one returns it to the other." (Purgatorio, XV, 49ff, Virgil to Dante when they leave the terrace of the purgation of envy)

Or as Augustine says, "Truth ravishes all her lovers, yet is faithful to each."

I've just finished reading The Last Battle to Youngest Daughter, so heaven has been on my mind a good deal. When "If Heaven" connects heaven with earthly joys--finding the people you love alive, your home town, the best memories of childhood--I am reminded of this passage in The Last Battle. Professor Digory is speaking first:

"You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream."...It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right forehoof on the ground and neighed and then cried: "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this."
Like, and yet unlike, the joys of this earth. As Lewis says in The Great Divorce, everything good that dies will be resurrected, but it must die first.

Oh, and while we're at it, when I put up my post last year on B. J. Thomas's "Home Where I Belong," it was not available on Youtube (or I didn't know how to find it). But it is now. And so as a bonus, here it is, too.

I wish they could play that one at my funeral.

Hebrews 11:13-16, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off...and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country...But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city."


Mary Fuller said...

Wow, you've made me homesick for heaven, especially after I read the quote from The Last Battle. If you saw Prince Caspian, you may have heard Switchfoot's "This Is Home." Although I'm no big fan of Switchfoot, this song is excellent, and I cry everytime I hear it. "I've got my heart set on what happens next. I've got my eyes wide, it's not over yet." I'll include a link, just in case you haven't heard the song. This link includes the lyrics.

Lydia McGrew said...

Neat song. I wasn't familiar with Switchfoot one way or another before this. The song has got almost an old British rock sound. I mean that as a compliment, actually.

Jeff Culbreath said...

Good post, Lydia. I haven't heard B.J. Thomas in years. You might consider adding this song by Brad Paisley (also country):

Lydia McGrew said...

Jeff, that's a really great one. I should put it up separately in its own post, but I'm glad you put it here if I don't get to it. Turns out Eldest Daughter has been wanting to show that one to me already.

Jeff Culbreath said...

Yup. I can't help but tear up at the line about his grandaddy, thinking of my own Grandad. Country music has always had a strain of religious piety (intermixed with the usual drinking/cheating/fornicating songs). Since you're new to country music, allow me to link to another you might appreciate, The Long Black Train by Josh Turner:

Sorry to overwhelm you with links. I'll give it a break now. :-)

Lydia McGrew said...

I like the song, though I found the video imagery a little hard to follow. In the end, it looks like getting hit like a ghost by the train is good, because that means you aren't going riding on it. :-) The people who are left behind after the train drives through them are the ones who have been freed from their temptations.

Eldest Daughter wants me to put up "Lay Me Down," by Andrew Peterson. But I have to admit that musically, I find that one a bit dull, though it has great lyrics.