This short memoir comes from our friend Curt Benham.
I was minding my own business this weekend eating a sandwich with a friend when George Michael sucker-punched me in the face.
I hadn’t heard the song “Everything She Wants” by Wham! in probably 15 years when it came on the “house mix” at Subway. Two things struck me, and struck me hard.
First, this is a fantastic song – the epitome of 80s pop. And second, it’s a graphic depiction of the anger, despair and sadness that come from trying to work your way into someone’s acceptance and love.
It’s a song about a woman who demands and demands and demands from her man and it’s killing him. He wants to please her. He needs her love and acceptance, but it’s just not happening. Life in the salt mines working for this unappeasable woman is more than just a drag. It’s sucking the life out of him.
Some people work for a living.
Some people work for fun.
Girl, I just work for you.
She’s impossible. Of course there’s the angry refrain:
It’s out of reach–not good enough.
I don’t know what the hell you want from me.
Somebody tell me… Why I work so hard for you!
Even joyous occasions are muted under the burden of unreachable expectation.
And now you tell me that you’re having my baby.
I’ll tell you that I’m happy if you want me to.
But one step further and my back will break.
If my best isn’t good enough then how can it be good enough?
I can’t work any harder than I do!
Then in the bridge we become depressingly introspective.
Why do I do the things I do?
My God, I don’t even think that I love you!
Bottom line, he’s giving the relationship everything he has and it’s simply not good enough to earn love and acceptance from the most important person in his life. And that makes him angry.
Human relationships like this are tragic, but the greater tragedy is how often we view God the way poor George views his fictional 80s girlfriend. How many times do we, or the people we love, shake our fist at God and scream in frustration, “Somebody tell me why I work so hard for you! … My God, I don’t even think that I love you!” This is why, as Rod Rosenbladt has said, people who only hear about God’s Law, his demand, eventually walk away from Christianity either mad or sad.
God’s Law is right, good and true. It’s also ravenous. When we think we’ve arrived in terms of the Law, we soon discover that we’re not even close. In other words, God ‘s Law demands an illusive perfection: “Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If we base our lives on the letter of the Law we will die an angry death, because like George Michael, we simply cannot measure up, try as we might.
Thanks be to God, the Law is not the final word. The Gospel is. We move from the crushing weight of God’s expected perfection to the wonderful, resurrecting news that everything has been taken care of in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Jesus we see we cannot keep the Law and, better yet, God knows that. So in his mercy God the Son became perfection attained. He died the perfect sacrificial death in our place. Sins forgiven. Then he defeated death. Imputed righteousness. Game over. Play again.
Love and acceptance from our Creator are ours, for free. No longer do we have to cry out to him, “Somebody tell me why I work so hard for you!” Because of Jesus there’s simply no more work to be done – just the freedom to bask in his love and acceptance, and proclaim, “Because of Jesus I don’t have to do anything for God to love me!” Then we can ask that truly monumental question, “Now, what do I want to do?”