“And it burns, burns, burns, burns… the ring of fire. The ring of fire.”
Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash… All of these men and women were trend setters in country music. All seeked to voice (literally) their own style of sub-genre within a genre, to reconstruct a definition that was seemingly set in stone, and to rebuild it with more practicality and prowess than any before them had done. And they did it.
Perhaps it was for selfish reasons, but I believe that each of these artist saw a bigger spectrum than just the narrow confines of country music, a spectrum that existed but no one had touched on just yet. They saw this wonderful bridge between the reality of life and the art of the realm of music. But not only did they see it… they built it. Because they believed in its potential, its “realness”, and its practical impact that millions have undergone since their revolution. Stop for just a minute and realize how beautiful that dream and its execution is. And then think about all the hell that came against them in the process.
I love country music, and it shouldn’t take long after meeting me to realize such. I love the pain in it, I love life in it, I love it’s transparency and desperation, honesty. It’s what we live, It’s what we feel. It’s the best containment of life through words and rhythm I’ve ever found. And it’s days like this why I wonder what exactly gives me that feeling, what exactly it is about every drawn out vowel and depressing heart-break song that keeps me coming back for more. Here’s what I found.
The quote at the top of this post was written by Ms. June Carter, in the midst of a terrible marital situation, a borderline affair with John Cash, while simultaneously trying to hold a career upright in the process. It burns– that’s what she had to say. It burns, the ring of fire. What is it? The Ring of Fire– what does that look like? Well, I think it looks like whatever you see when you open your eyes. It’s life.
There’s this idea of control in my head that I lunge for so desperately, so wholeheartedly, and so in vain. There are times that I really believe that control is my solution, control will make this situation work out the way I want, control will be my salvation. And I deserve nothing less than to be called a fool for such. Even when I feel like I own control in my life (I never REALLY do), it’s not enough. It’s never something that I feel satisfied with because that kind of control, that kind of sovereignty is not made for hands like mine. It has become an indirect (or maybe not so indirect) illustration of pride in my life, a public statement that screams in God’s face, “You aren’t equipped to handle this situation, so I will.” I make Him into something He’s not, something He has never been and never will be. I make Him into a servant for my purposes, which I hope all of you know is a dangerous and opposing stance compared to a true follower of Christ.
I look back at country music, and I see the pain, the heartbreak, somebody cheatin’ on someone, somebody headin’ for the whiskey, somebody shootin some man cause he cheated (Miranda Lambert reference– You’re welcome)… and it makes sense. The best songs, the most beautiful melodies and words, come from pain. A lack of control on life, a plan gone wrong, a non-existent plan… The beauty that I love from country music is generated by situations that lack control. Oh, hey God.
I am filthy… I am wretched, beyond cure, and wicked when my goal is control. There is no hope in that because I am still in the picture. I try to be my own saving grace and…well, you know the rest of how that story goes. There is such a beautiful message in all of this, something that I have overlooked foolishly. I praise God for every time I have no clue about my life. I praise Him when I think I do. I praise Him when everything sucks. I praise Him when nothing could get better. The thing is, each time in my life where I am clueless, confused, and out of control is an incredible opportunity to let God do His thing. To truly give Him my life because I can’t make it what He wants. Trying harder is not an option, but letting go is. And if I was as faithful as I want to be, I would realize that I am clueless every day. But holy mess… what a blessing. Why would I want it any other way?
Following Christ… it’s not complicated. It’s hard, but it’s not complicated. Honestly, I think God knows we are a little on the dumb side compared to Him and His commands were not as complicated as we like to misinterpret so often (myself included). But if one thing is for sure, it’s that nothing we plan is. Don’t fool yourself by planning out your life by the book… Don’t pretend any more that you have the reigns of your life. Because as long as you seek control, Satan is kicking your butt all over the place. So remember this: hell will come against you in your pursuit of following Christ (leaving control at the foot of the cross is included). But the power of God and His armies are behind us at all times as long as we let them take charge on our lives. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that they are going to do a lot better at determining your life than you are. Sorry I’m not sorry.
I love Airstreams. I just do… I mean go look at one and tell me you don’t like it. I just don’t know how it’s even possible to oversee such simplistic beauty… and yet I’ve done it for so long now. I’m strippin it down to the basics, take off the new paint, the new furniture, the new curtains… shredding the map, throwing out the GPS, and torching the compass. It’s time to look at the life that is/was never mine to begin with.
“You confuse the Glory’s fire with fire from the tongues of liars.”
I’ve definitely confused my Lord and Savior’s flame with my own lies. I’ve put Him in a position of service that He should NEVER ever be in. Ever. I am His servant, and the demon of control is my battle. I hope that we all learn the joy of this uncontrollable life, the joy of repentance, and the life that comes with giving your own up.
No Ring of Fire is as strong as the Glory’s fire.