Hey friends! In case you weren’t aware, we are a mere eleven days from the 1989 World Tour hitting Nashville. I know, it really sneaks up on you like that! My friends Kathryn and Daniel and I are all going to night 2, and of course, Kathryn and I have taken to using homework or hanging out in the suite as time to prepare ourselves by listening to 1989 on repeat. The other night, this led to a discussion of what songs we’re most excited to hear in concert and what our favorite songs on the album are.
My favorite song off of 1989 (I know you were all wondering!) is Clean. If you haven’t heard Clean before, first of all, you can find it here because Big Machine Records is annoying about copyright and there’s not a good album version on YouTube. Clean is about a breakup, like a lot of Taylor’s songs. But it isn’t about revenge, or even how it all broke down. It’s a song about who you are once it’s all said and done.
When 1989 came into my life last October, I was in a really rough place. Breakups suck. When you date someone for three years, that becomes a big part of how you see who and how you are in the world. It became a big part of my identity. Ending that relationship forced me to entirely reevaluate my source of identity: the things about me that were true.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace,which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
A few weeks ago, at Midtown, Randy preached on this passage, talking about identity. His point was that when Paul refers to “every spiritual blessing in Christ,” he’s also referring to these many other attributes in the next few verses, like “holy” “blameless” “loved” “adopted to sonship” “redeemed” “forgiven.” Next, he unveiled a whiteboard with all of these attributes – and many more – written on it, and told us that these are all the things that are profoundly true about us. Then, he told us to pick one out that was hardest for us to believe.
I picked blameless. It may take different forms, but at the end of the day, I blame myself for a lot of the circumstances and outcomes in my life. It is so, so hard for me to believe that whatever happens, there is not something I could have done better.
At the center of that is control. It is so, so hard for me to surrender control of my life and my circumstances to my Lord, even though it is very, very easy for me to admit I am broken. I keep thinking patience is the theme of my life and what the Lord is teaching me right now, but a better theme might be surrender. Last night pushed me over my breaking point, and I was happy to admit I had no control and no way to fix the situation. But that didn’t stop me from thinking of ways I should try, and things I should have done better to prevent the situation from happening in the first place.
The cool thing about getting in the Word with intentionality even if not on the most regular basis, y’all, is that God uses that. As I was sitting on my couch, too wound up to sleep and with thoughts of shouldas-couldas-wouldas still rattling around in my head, I thought of this verse I read in Galatians yesterday that didn’t make much sense to me at the time. Paul is imploring the Galatians to turn away from a false gospel that is trying to tell them to be saved, they had to follow all the Old Testament, Jewish law AND believe in Christ.
17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
When I first read verse 18 especially, I very much did not get why Paul was trying to link the law and destruction – but I do now. I will tell you right now that I am so very broken. I do not have it all together, ever. But often, that just motivates me to try harder to fix it myself, only to find that I can’t.
Clean is a song about being so broken by life that it brings you to a place where you are even stronger. Before she sings it, at every concert, Taylor stops the music and the lights, and she talks to the crowd.
Let me tell you the things you are not, okay? You are not somebody else’s opinion of you. That’s what you’re not. You are not going nowhere just because you are not where you want to be yet. You are not damaged goods just because you have made mistakes in your life. Those are the things you are not.
Let me tell you the things that you are. You are your own definition of beautiful and worthwhile, and no one else’s definition. You are wiser, stronger and smarter because you made mistakes in your life, not damaged.
One thing I have learned in 25 years, and I’m still learning, is that if you get rained on, you walk through a bunch of storms, life is constantly coming at you – that doesn’t make you damaged, it makes you clean.
Do y’all hear that? She’s speaking the Gospel. Okay, maybe not exactly, but remember that post I wrote about truth last month? Sometimes God uses things you wouldn’t expect – like Taylor Swift – to speak His truth straight into my heart.
I think that is my story: I can’t rebuild what I destroy, but I live in the power of the one who can. All those shoulda-coulda-wouldas? Maybe I wasn’t believing in the Old Testament law, but I was believing in my own power to carry me through my circumstances. My own strength will always leave me broken, and it is not the message of the new law – the Gospel – God calls us to live by. When I live out of the power of that Gospel, it tells me that brokenness is not the end of my story, that being wrong does not make me a mistake, that being wrong doesn’t even necessarily make me to blame. And even if it does, the Gospel also tells me that I am blameless, I am forgiven, I am redeemed.
It has been a sweet, sweet year of learning what it means for my identity to be not in the titles of this world, but in Christ who lives in me. It has meant learning that I am strong, that I am not someone else’s opinion of me, that I am independent, that I am
incapable and insecure, that I am free, that I am forgiven, that I am clumsy, that I am still learning – and that none of these things about who I am make me to blame, they make me who God is making me to be.
I talk a lot about being a new romantic on this blog. I’ve covered the “romantic” pretty well up to this point – my circumstances are constantly changing, and this is my journey of falling in love with my life and my Lord in the midst of those. But I haven’t talked to you much about the “new.”
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Randy talks a lot at Midtown about stepping into the power of the Gospel, and what can happen when you base your actions in what you know to be true about who you are. Being new – being clean – that even when I’m wrong, even when I’m to blame, especially when I am broken – the Gospel does not change, and therefore I can be confident in who I am and who God is making me to be, by the Spirit in me.
Just because I’ve been broken and I’ve done the breaking doesn’t mean this is where my story ends. Just because I’ve been through a lot of rainstorms doesn’t make me damaged goods – it makes me a new romantic – it makes me clean.