DiM | “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe

disapproveCCM Edition.

June 21, 2016. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe which currently sits at #19 on the20theCountdownMagazine.

I got frustrated with the song during the discussion of the lyric. This song spends most of its time, first couple of verses and even the chorus, building up to a climactic lesson or point. From the very beginning, we know there’s supposed to be a lesson, that cliche of “If I could tell the my younger self one thing…”. The artists relied on a bridge to bring the lesson home. It is almost good… almost. We’ll get to that point in the discussion, but this song could have been rescued were it not for the overwhelming self-focus in the problem and in the proposed solution.

MercyMe VEVO

 

Lyrics (via MercyMe)

Dear younger me
Where do I start
if i could tell you everything that I have learned so far
then you could be
one step ahead
of all the painful memories still running thru my head
i wonder how much different things would be
dear younger me

dear younger me
i cannot decide
do i give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
or do i go deep
and try to change
the choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
even though I love this crazy life
sometimes i wish it was a smoother ride
dear younger me

if i knew then what i know now
condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
if i knew then what i know now
would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

dear younger me
it’s not your fault
you were never meant carry this beyond the cross

you are holy
you are righteous
you are one of the redeemed

set apart
a brand new heart
you are free indeed

every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
every moment brings you closer
to who you were meant to be
Dear younger dear

Discussion

So who is the artist talking to? Well, the obvious answer is “himself”. The secondary target audience is anyone who has done some introspection and reflection and had the thought if I knew then what I know now. I think that idea has crossed everyone’s mind at one point or another, how we answer the question or go about answering that question is what tends to vary the most. I’ve come to the point now where I understand how the Bible describes sin and the corruption of our flesh that whenever these thoughts come to mind, the simple answer is always, “I’d not have believed myself, and would have simply gone on sinning”. We don’t get to go back and try to undo or redo anything, and we don’t need to. We have something much, much better. We have the Cross, the Gospel of God’s Grace, the promise of Forgiveness and Salvation, the Hope of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus. It is Finished.

Verse 1. Nothing particularly profound or particularly Christian in this verse. It is asking honest questions. That they are honest doesn’t make them good questions. For example, there is a hint in one of the questions that somehow we might be ahead in life if we had extra information. I don’t think that’s true for the Christian. We don’t sin due to lack of knowledge, we sin because we are sinful. The artist isn’t explicitly addressing sins of the past, and I find that troubling. Popular evangelicalism doesn’t know what to do with sin, doesn’t know how to describe it in light of the Gospel. So what normally tends to happen is sin gets treated as mistakes of the past that are now gone. That’s not completely wrong, but it’s missing the reality that as long as we continue living in this fallen world, sin is what our flesh will crave. We are born into the corruption of Adam, and our flesh bears that mark until the Resurrection, when we’ll finally be rid of this sinful flesh and granted new bodies. Our hearts and minds (flesh) bear many scars inflicted by our own sinful desires and the sinful desires of others. The song seems focused more on regret, guilt, and condemnation… so it is dealing with the hurt of past sins without naming the enemy.

Verse 2. Again, this song builds slowly. But here we see something that looks like a throw-away piece of advice, that almost seems awesome. Granted, we’ve still not seen anything in the song that is particularly Christian, but if we make that assumption based on the band and the CCM marketing model, who is out there preaching “how to get the most out of your life“? Most of popular evangelicalism is, the celebrities who preach themselves and life-tips (Greg Surratt, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren) instead of Christ and Him Crucified. The guys making up their own creeds (Joel Osteen, Keith Craft) and rejecting Biblical orthodoxy (Andy Stanley), and just reading themselves into every possible scripture, including the ones plainly talking about God (Steven Furtick). At this line in the song I got my hopes up thinking, “wow, this song is rejecting that man-centered drivel and is going to point us to Christ”. Sadly, that thought didn’t pan out. The artist then talks about going deep… by questioning if we should really change anything in the past since those past mistakes are part of what makes us who we are. Well, great. So, going deep is to question whether or not past mistakes were really mistakes or building blocks for who we are now? /sigh. That’s not deep, that’s self-justification. At this point, I’m glad the artist isn’t clearly naming sin as the enemy, because that would make this turning point in the song very bad. As it stands, this turn in the song makes it very surface-level and thin… like wondering if I would have finished my degree according to plan right out of high school or if I’m better off having failed at college and struggled for years before joining the Army. That’s not deep… it’s self-centered, self-focused conjecture that can either lead to a self-pity-party or a self-love-fest or vacillate between the two. So far, we’ve seen nothing in the song that separates it from secular humanism. The song is further downgraded in impact when the artists claims to love this crazy life, he just wishes sometimes it was a smoother ride. Who doesn’t want a life with less pain and fewer bumps?

Chorus. So what is it that the singer knows now that he didn’t know then? It has something to do with removing the power of condemnation, and it would have provided a sense of worth greater than joy and pain. That sounds fantastic, but what is it? What would you have told your younger self sooner to have all of these powers (or maybe told your younger self if your deep thoughts concluded it was worth avoiding some hardships)? We get one more teaser toward the end of the chorus that suggests that if he’d known then what he knows now it would have been easy to figure out what he would have changed if only he’d heard (may need a chart that sentence out on a piece of paper and colored markers, lol)…

Bridge (the answer). It’s not your fault. WHAT?!?! That’s the big payoff, that it’s not your fault? What is not your fault? Your sin? Your sin is your fault. You are born in it, born into it, born a slave to it, it comes from within you, it is in your heart, it influences your speech, your thoughts, and your actions, it is yours. The message of the Gospel is NOT that we are victims of injustice, it is that in our guilt and shame God stepped in to pay the price we owe but could not pay in our place so that in Him we might be saved and made righteous.

In fairness, I’m the one that has been trying to understand the lyric from a Biblical Christian perspective. The song hasn’t been talking about sin directly. The next line mentions the cross… oddly. you were never meant carry this beyond the cross. To give this single line/thought its best construction, completely removed from the rest of the song, this could be a wonderful thought reinforcing the Truth that Christ died for your sins and has forgiven them all. Once you’ve been absolved by the blood and body of Christ Jesus, It is finished is what He spoke on the Cross, and It is forgiven is what remains of your absolved sin. That is glorious good news, Gospel. Sadly, the song hasn’t been building to this truth of the Gospel. I do believe this is intended to provide relief to the weary believer who struggles to find assurance of his salvation. That is a prevailing source of torment for the majority of professing Christians in popular American evangelicalism whose focus is always on works and self-examination, a form of Christianity that is foolishly looking to progress beyond the Gospel of Jesus Christ into human perfection under the LAW. The Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t something only unbelievers need to hear… Christians need the Gospel preached to them continually also, Christians need to hear that their sins are forgiven constantly because we sin constantly and are constantly in need of forgiveness.

1 John 1:5-10 (ESV) | Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Now, regarding the issue of picking up old regrets, and listening to the condemnation of the enemy concerning sins we’ve already been forgiven of, that’s why we need our brothers and sisters in Christ speaking life into our lives. No, I’m not talking about “positivity” I’m talking about the Truth of the Gospel. I need to hear a brother in Christ say to me, “yes, we’ve committed the sin of idolatry in the past… but that sin has already been absolved, there is nothing more that needs to be done there, Christ has forgiven it, you need to let it go” (words my pastor spoke to me over some ice cream). I need to hear that. You need to hear it also. When the struggle is internal, you need to look to the external, objective Word of God to build your faith. Wallowing around in the mire of introspection won’t build your faith, it will distract you from God’s Word. If this was intended to be the central point of the song, it wasn’t build up well and there is no acknowledgement of the Law, no clarity in the Gospel, and what’s worse, the song simply ends in a blanket of positive affirmations and promises without a tether to Christ and Him Crucified.

you are holy
you are righteous
you are one of the redeemed
set apart
a brand new heart
you are free indeed
every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
every moment brings you closer
to who you were meant to be
Dear younger dear

Every promise pointing to how great “me” is… I’m now going to be who I’m meant to be. In the end, this is a motivational song that any secular humanist could relate to and agree with and never be convicted of sin or made aware of the Gospel. Are these fragments all part of actual promises in the Bible? Yes, they are. But they’ve been divorced from Law and Gospel and applied blindly. The focus is on the self, not on Christ. Throughout the whole song, the focus is on the self. The cross gets a small mention.

Conclusion

If this was a song intended for secular airplay, just part of everyday musical art being performed to pay the bills, it would make for a cool, positive song. I’m used to ignoring bad theology in secular songs. However, this song is written by Christians for a Christian audience, so it’s bad theology is central to the song and it cannot simply be ignored.

If I could tell the younger me something, it would be to read the Scriptures with a Christ-focus, looking for how this passage is pointing me to Christ rather than constantly trying to see “what this passage is telling me to do”. As I wrote earlier, I made the bad choices because of sin. I am where I am today because of the Grace and Mercy of God through the working of the Holy Spirit, not by anything I did or realized on my own. What I know now is because the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, and there is nothing I could say to my younger self that would help the Holy Spirit do His work any differently. Believers don’t get “do-overs” we get something much, much better… we get It is Finished; You are Forgiven.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

2 thoughts on “DiM | “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe

  1. I’m only commenting because I don’t agree and would like you to see this song from another perspective; mine & the persons who wrote this song. It was actually meant for people who have gone through things that were out of their control, and still felt the guilt & shame from it. Example: abuse. Hence: “it’s not your fault”
    The abuse I went through was not my fault & I was not meant to carry it beyond the cross. This song helped me forgive a parent that has changed & I still had resentment towards. I don’t think it’s as awful as you describe. Thank you.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, to share your disagreement with me and your personal struggle. I’ve read elsewhere that the author was writing about having been the victim of abuse in the past, and each time someone references that background, I come back to this song to see how I missed it. The problem here is the lyrics don’t bear that out. There is no clarity in the lyric pointing to forgiving others, in fact, the song stays purely introspective. Particularly with that line “you were never meant to carry this [guilt, shame] beyond the cross”… that is NOT how I’d describe the pain of having been made a victim; rather, that is how I’d counsel someone to trust in the Absolution, the Words of Christ saying, “you’re forgiven”. Indeed, to the victim we need to remind each one, “it’s not your fault”. The lyric of the song doesn’t specify victimization or forgiving someone who has wronged you. I wish it did, especially in this case. I can see how this song would be of comfort to a victim of abuse. I also think that had the song been written with more clarity, it could have provided even better encouragement for the abused. As it stands, however, it attempts to speak to themes of regret/shame/hurt universally and introspectively, which leaves too much room for error in interpretation. If a radio DJ introduces the context of the song before the song is played, it better sets up the listener to hear the clear message, but the lyrics themselves do not bear the context.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to share your hurt with us. I praise God that you were able to forgive that parent.
      May the LORD bless and keep you,
      in Christ Jesus,
      Jorge

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