Miranda Lambert has her own little gritty niche in country music. Her beautiful face likes to sing about some of the uglier truths in life (yes, uglier than losing your dog, wife, and house). Lambert’s latest single, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” is about a girl who is handling a breakup in all the wrong ways. But mainly it is about challenging the way that “mama” would have her to deal—mainly by pretending.
For those of you who haven’t stopped reading because I am discussing a country song, I wanted to consider this whole “southern” dynamic that Miranda sings about quite often. It certainly isn’t just southern, but she is right to challenge this “pretty Christianity,” as I will call it. Maybe we need to ask ourselves when good manners and respect morph into downright faking it.
In the song, Lambert sings about a very dramatic way of dealing. She resents her mother’s “softer generation where you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face.” While the character of the song is the subject of gossip around town from the barflies to the Baptists, she reflects that in her mom’s eyes it “don’t matter how you feel, it only matters how you look.” While mama tells her to “run and hide [her] crazy and start acting like a lady,” she rebels even more.
Sure, we certainly shouldn’t give license to act on all our feelings. And sin is sin, which is evil. But what does a good Christian do when they have a broken heart, or a hurtful disagreement, don’t get that job we we’re after, or are just exhausted with life? We are all tempted to sin—all the time. Do we just pretend like we aren’t?
I think that much of the problem is a confusion about sanctification. Because we are justified in Jesus Christ, we are called to live a life of faith and obedience. But we can’t sanctify ourselves. God is faithful to his covenant and he is much more concerned with the reality of our broken hearts than how we look through the process. If you think about it, we are all crazy. Sin is crazy. Wanting to be fulfilled by anything other than Jesus Christ is crazy! Looking to anything else for meaning and value—just plain nuts. We need to look at our own crazy so that we see our need for Christ. But if we’re too busy hiding our crazy and acting like sanctified Christians, we are really on a self-atonement plan that is the craziest idea of all!
When I first heard Lambert’s song, I was thinking about all this fakeness in the church, and life in general. I was thinking about how we need to be real with people so that God can work on our broken hearts. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
But as I was reflecting on it further, I began to think that I can really be that mama who keeps telling their kids to hide their crazy. I mean, a major part of my job is spent working on behavior. When it comes down to it, I don’t want my kid to be the one “holdin’ the matches when the fire trucks show up and there’s nobody else to blame.” I do have to teach them to resist sin, even when their “feelings” tell them otherwise. This is why the gospel is so important. It’s something that is totally outside of us, good news about what Christ has done despite myself. Our feelings may reek of desperation and bad desires. But we need to identify them for what they are and bring them to the cross.
If I’m honest, I don’t think that I have created the best parenting environment for the gospel. I think that in some ways I have made it a little easier for my children to tell a lie and “hide their crazy.” Sure, many times that’s on them because they are merely trying to avoid the consequences of sin. But, is my heart prepared to offer compassion as well, or do they think that I am going to tersely condemn them with no grace? I have to ask myself if maybe sometimes I am more concerned with how my children make me look more than what is going on in their own hearts. Or maybe I’m just too tired to deal with it all. The difficulties in parenting just make me realize how much grace I need myself. But Lambert sings a mantra at the end of her song that I would never want my children to learn from me:Powder your nose, paint your toes Line your lips and keep ‘em closed Cross your legs, dot your I’s And never let ‘em see you cry
Christianity is only pretty because of our beautiful Savior. Painting our own righteousness over our crazy isn’t fooling anyone.