Eli texted me recently. He bought a used copy of Bruce Springsteen's Born In The U.S.A. album. He'd been listening to it a lot. He closed his text, "Love you, dad."
He knew I'd appreciate knowing he was listening to an album and artist I've always liked. I remember playing a cassette copy of Springsteen's album, Darkness On the Edge of Town as I drove Eli several mornings to preschool. He'll have to tell you if he remembers that and, more importantly, if he liked it. He never told me he didn't.
When he let me know about listening to Born In the U.S.A., I was reminded of one song, No Surrender. The album version is a hard driving rock number. I'm much more familiar with the acoustic version on the live compilation set, Live 1975-1985. Whenever I hear this version, I, at least, have a tear in my eye.
In the last verse on the album, Bruce sings,
Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim The walls of my room are closing in There's a war outside still raging you say it ain't ours anymore to win.
In the acoustic version, Bruce sings the song in honor of Stevie Van Zant, his friend and band member. The last verse is different from the album, and it always pierces my heart. Its not written to dramatize an ill-faded love affair. Its written to a friend and comrade in life.
Now on the streets tonight the lights are growing dim, the walls of my room are closing in. Its good to see your smiling face and to hear your voice again. We could sleep in the twilight light by the river bed with the wide open country in our hearts and these romantic dreams in our heads.
When I read Eli's text and remembered this song, I recollected my feelings of companionship associated with this song, and how I longed for that to still be true for Eli and me as son and father though he lives so far away and is paving out a life of his own. A parent to child relationship is seldom ideal in every facet, but we love each other and share passions and experiences and mutual care I wouldn't surrender for anything. I love you, Eli, and I'm proud of you.
The acoustic version of this song performed in honor of a close friend stirs within me a longing for another deep relationship. I believe this relationship to which I'm referring is deep and loving and friendly. At the same time, religion in its strict and legalistic sense frowns on such intimate language and passion expressed in the relationship I'm alluding to. Religion would prefer a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ to be grounded in fear and shame; a relationship not bound in love and devotion.
I don't care what the spirit of religion tells me about how I should look at my savior or how I should speak to him. The spirit of religion wants me weak and frail when it comes to living out my faith and devotion to my God and the world he so loves. The spirit of religion doesn't want you or me to be effective in communicating to this world how amazing is the grace of God in Jesus.
There are days, particularly now, when hope and passion have grown dim and the walls of my room close in. Then I encountered the presence of my Lord who I'm told sits closer than a brother. It was good to see his smiling face and hear his voice again. He never speaks to me of shame or fear as being necessary in our relationship. He embraces me. He breaks the circle in which I stand, as he did years ago for me, and hugs me as a friend, a son and a brother that he'll never forsake or abandon.
We could and do share space and time together as partners with the wide open country in our hearts and romantic dreams of healing and salvation and deliverance manifested everywhere in our heads.
We've both made promises to each other. He's the unfailing, steadfast one, but he won't forsake me regardless of how I've failed him or the ones he loves. I trust him and his love for me. We won't surrender to the pressures of the enemy or the lies he tells. We're committed and devoted to each other. That will never change.
I love this song and what emotions and passions it stirs in me for those I love. I'm in a relationship in which I am not embarrassed or ashamed. I love you, Jesus, my savior and my friend.
We made a promise we swore we'd always remember No retreat no surrender Like soldiers in the winter's night with a vow to defend No retreat no surrender