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From the Beginning – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
By Michael Dalton

There are two things that drew me to Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP): Greg Lake’s beautiful acoustic songs and Keith Emerson’s synthesizer work. 

Known for progressive and symphonic rock, Keith Emerson (ex-The Nice), Greg Lake (ex-King Crimson) and Carl Palmer (ex-Atomic Rooster) became ELP in 1970. Their music was a unique blend of classical, jazz and in the early years, hard rock. It was driven by Emerson’s innovation on the Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer.

 ELP’s albums followed a familiar pattern: a theme covering several songs, a lovely acoustic number by Greg Lake, and one humorous song. The album Trilogy, released in 1972, contained the acoustic gem, “From the Beginning,” which became ELP’s best-selling single.

The song starts off with an acknowledgement that mistakes have been made in a relationship. 

There might have been things I missed
But don’t be unkind
It don’t mean I’m blind
Perhaps there’s a thing or two
I think of lying in bed
I shouldn’t have said
But there it is

The other person apparently lashes out in anger, since the songwriter pleads with her not to be unkind. I have heard people that travel say that one of the saddest things they see are couples being unkind to each other. I know that a close relationship can magnify little flaws and irritations, but there’s never a good excuse for a lack of kindness. If we would humble our pride, we must be patient and kind regardless of the vexation. It’s not easy, and we will fail, but it’s part of loving another person. 

Unfortunately, the songwriter goes on to dismiss his behavior.

Maybe I might have changed
And not been so cruel
Not been such a fool
Whatever was done is done
I just can’t recall
It doesn’t matter at all

We all stumble in many ways, but it doesn’t help to minimize our failures. When I fall short, my responsibility is to ask forgiveness for the wrong that I’ve done. 

With regard to our speech, I’ll never forget what a minister said in a farewell message to a congregation that was disbanding: “Some things should never be said.” Sometimes we just have to pray about a situation. There are times when it is unwise to speak to someone about a problem.

The lyrics in this song miss the mark in implying that it doesn’t matter what’s been said or done because he and his lover were meant to be together. 

You see, it’s all clear
You were meant to be here
From the beginning

The words “from the beginning” are the climax of the chorus. They remind me of the first words in the book of Genesis: In the beginning. Those words may have inspired the YouTube posting of the song with beautiful nature images. You can see it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nUId91rPF4. 

“From the beginning” makes me think about God’s original purpose for men and women. There’s much that could be said, but I want to focus on just one aspect of God’s design that applies to both sexes. 

The Bible teaches that men and women are equal in value but unique in some of their roles. Generally, men have more brute strength than women do. In his commentary on Genesis, I think Matthew Henry touches on one reason why that might be so.

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”

Surely one reason God has given men physical strength is for the protection of others. One of the terrible perversities in this life is that men often use this God-given attribute against others. Women are battered, abused and even murdered by their partners. It ought not to be so, and the abuse of strength can be more than physical.

Have you ever noticed that if you feel superior in some way to another person, it can change the way that you relate to them? If you regard someone as inferior or weaker, you are more apt to assume a dominant posture in the way that you communicate and interact. You are more likely to treat them with disdain or disrespectfully, especially if they bother you. It’s a terrible perversity of God’s original intent that the strong should support those who are weaker. If God gives us strength, we are to use it to build-up others. It’s a horrible thing when men or women use a position of strength to dominate, humiliate or demean one another. 

The Scriptures continually teach that those who have more are to help the less fortunate. “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Romans 15:1-2 ESV). “Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him” (Psalm 41:1 ESV). We should ever be mindful of the example of Jesus: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV). Jesus emptied Himself so that we might be lifted up. 

I know what it’s like to have a boss do something that makes you feel small. I never want to make anyone feel like that. When I catch myself taking a superior attitude toward someone, I want to stop immediately. If we are not careful, we can unconsciously assume such a posture to those closest to us, so that instead of feeling encouraged, they feel worse about themselves. It happens when we fail to take the position of a servant. We think we know better and try to control the other person. 

When Paul compares individual believers to the members of a body, he states the obvious to draw attention to God’s intent: “The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which are more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV). God desires that we show each other the same consideration and care.

As I grow older the more I realize how little I know. I often discover that I’m wrong about something, or that I didn’t know all the facts. I can be blind to my own faults even when they are clearly visible to others. It’s easy for me to misjudge people and blame them for a problem when I may be partly responsible. If I know anything, I do not know it as I should. It makes me want to say with John Newton that I know two things: I’m a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. 

It increases my desire to adopt an attitude of humility towards others. I want to serve them with no air of superiority. In doing so I will be free to grow in love toward them and be in a better position to receive from them. Those we deem less honorable can enrich us if we look beyond appearances and open ourselves to what they have to offer.

I suppose that any work of art has the potential to hint at and point to deeper realities. “From the Beginning” does that for me. When I was far from God, this song brought peace to my soul. It would run through my mind—whispering of something better, which one might associate with heaven. What a place of peace that will be with no relationship problems.

I have begun to experience some of the pristine beauty and purity conjured up by the music. I’m not the source of it. I have found it in the person of Jesus Christ. 

The apostle John tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-2). The Word is Jesus Christ, and John makes it clear that He is God from the beginning. In the last book of the Bible, Christ calls Himself “the beginning and the end.” He has given me new life. He is the author of my faith from beginning to end. 

We were meant for far more than just being together with another person. From the beginning it was God’s intent that we have a relationship with Him. It’s from that beginning that we learn to use our strengths to support each other in our weaknesses. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
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