I am grateful that my work for the Center for Vitality of the Arkansas Conference allows me to travel the state to work with our amazing congregations. Lately, I have been focused on working with about 20 congregations who are developing intentional discipleship systems (appropriately these churches are referred to as The Twenty).
These churches are spread all around the state, which means I have a lot of time in the car, and when I am in the car, I am listening to the radio. So as I drive, my thoughts about my work invariably mix in with the lyrics of the songs I hear. Recently, two songs spoke to me as the two poles of discipleship: Fall Out Boy’s “The Last of the Real Ones,” and Camila Cabello’s “Consequences.”
“The Last of the Real Ones” opens with an image of someone feeling all alone and then finding the one around whose life he wants to revolve, even using an image of being the planets revolving around the sun (which in my head also implies Son). This person will follow his newfound companion because this companion is “the last of a dying breed,” confessing that the follower is “here in search of your glory. There’s been a million before me, that ultra kind of love you never walk away from. You’re just the last of the real ones.” Later, the singer proclaims tunnel vision in which all he sees is this “real one,” and then looks toward the “beginning of the end, the end of infinity with you.” Since there is no end to infinity, this moment marks both an end and beginning, which captures that dying/living moment of baptism. This song catches for me that turned around, running-after-Christfor-all-you-are-worth kind of love that real discipleship grows from. I cannot make claims that Fall Out Boy had those intentions in writing this song, but certainly, as I hear it, it speaks to a longing for an authentic, enthusiastic relationship with the one true Christ.
Of course, following Jesus is not always roses and sunshine, even if it begins that way. There are struggles as we learn to live differently, and we also periodically confront profound challenges to our faith, challenges that make it seem as if our relationship with Jesus is dying. It is Camila Cabello’s song “Consequences” that captures this part of the journey of discipleship for me. In particular, I can hear Mary Magdalene and Peter and John all singing this song to themselves on Holy Saturday. Listen to the tension in the two versions of the chorus present in the song:
“Loving you was young, and wild, and free, Loving you was cool, and hot, and sweet. Loving you was sunshine, safe and sound, A steady place to let down my defenses. But loving you had consequences.”
Then later, she sings, “Loving you was dumb, and dark, and cheap. Loving you will still take shots at me. For loving you was sunshine but then it poured And I lost so much more than my senses ‘Cause loving you had consequences.”
Following Jesus is transformative, and creates in us a new life where we can more fully live as the people we are created to be. But we do a disservice to ourselves and to those who are just learning to follow Christ if we make it seem like the journey is always an easy one. Even if we never waiver in our faith in Christ (which I expect most of us do at some point in life), we all face tests of our faith. Some of us are made to feel foolish for following Christ. Some of us will lose people in our lives because we choose to follow him. There are losses in the midst of great gain, and those losses are painful.
These two songs together remind me of my journey, and they help me stay focused on the work I have before me to help others grow in their relationship with Christ. They remind me of the joys and the struggles and keep me grounded in the reality before me even as they help me imagine the reign to come. What connects you to your journey as a disciple? Share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.