Like its secular Top 40 cousin, Christian rock radio suffers from a disease that could be called Acute Overplayitis (AO), the symptoms of which look like this: popular songs get a lot of airplay, whether or not they happen to appeal to me.
I could write a whole blog whining about which overplayed songs annoy me most, but that that’s not the point (today). I will mention one tune I hear too often on Calgary’s Shine FM station, though: The Motions, which was recorded in 2007 by Matthew West.
Its chorus goes like this:
I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all-consuming passion inside of me,
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
‘What if I had given everything
Instead of going through the motions?’
It’s not a bad song, actually. No better or worse than most of the formulaic fare favoured by the BCRM (Big Christian Rock Machine), anyway. I’ve just heard it too many times. In addition to the AO Problem, though, is the RTTTWW (Rob Takes Things The Wrong Way) Problem.
My beef is that the tune says the phrase ‘going through the motions’ as if it’s a bad thing.
Not that it’s all Matthew West’s fault, of course. That phrase, with that connotation, is used often in North American churches – pastors toss it around in sermons like a Nerf football, to shake us out of our complacency; to call us to take our faith out of Neutral (or Park, or Reverse) and put our souls in a forward gear.
And I’m not saying that’s a bad message; it’s a great message. I completely agree that God wants much more from us than just going through the motions; more than simply toeing the line of the Christian life – at church, at work or at home.
Singing nice songs about Him, reading and listening to interesting stories about Him and reciting creeds that proclaim Him – even doing charity work ostensibly in His name – are meaningless if our hearts aren’t in it. God wants us to embrace Him with every fibre of our beings; to make Him the lens through which life is viewed; the context in which life is lived.
But sometimes, that’s much easier said than done.
Sometimes it’s tough to feel passion and joy about our faith; sometimes we can’t focus on our Father because we’re too tired, or something else is on our minds. Sometimes we get sucked into the negative malaise that is The World. Maybe we’ve even temporarily lost that sense of God’s presence in which we’ve previously reveled. And at those times, the motions are all we can manage.
And I think that’s OK.
I’d rather go through the motions in my church, surrounded by my family and friends, in an atmosphere that celebrates God’s amazing grace, than stay home and ignore Him completely. On those Sundays, maybe my heart’s not in church, but at least my feet are, and that’s better than nothing.
This subject is near and dear to my heart (if you couldn’t tell), because for the first several years that I attended church, I was just going through the motions. I showed up most weeks because I’d made a commitment to my wife to raise our children in a Christian environment; not because I felt any particular spiritual hunger or thirst, and certainly not to enter into a place and time of true worship (I didn’t even know what that meant).
But eventually, those motions became habit, and that habit became a seed from which my faith grew. If I hadn’t decided 11 years ago to start going through the motions, I wouldn’t be a Christian today.
Matthew West and all those pastors are entirely correct that going through the motions is not enough. But it can be a start – or function as a better-than-nothing substitute during those times when ‘real’ faith is elusive.
For my money, the only thing worse than merely going through the motions is not even going through the motions.
Peace be with you.