Serving: Double Feature
Songs: “Just as I Am,” the hymn, and “Come as You Are,” by Nirvana
By psychologist, Dr Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr BLT
What could the hymn, “Just as I Am” possibly share in common with the rock classic by Nirvana entitled, “Come as You Are?” Before I draw the parallels, please note how I was able to seamlessly integrate the two into this medley of sorts,
Just As I Am (the hymn/Come as You Are (original by Nirvana)
Now, let’s see, where do I begin to draw the parallel? One conjures up images of a band that revolutionized the rock music of that era, in the way similar to the way in which the Sex Pistols redefined rock in the late seventies. To those familiar with the lifestyles of grunge artists, the song may conjure up a drug-infested, self-indulgent lifestyle of a rock star once married to Courtney Love (note to self: don’t, under any circumstances use this as an opportunity for me to brag about my personal encounter with her).
The other, "Just as I Am," conjures up images of thousands of people coming forward to accept Jesus Christ as their own personal Lord and Savior at Billy Graham crusades, and in evangelistic meetings modeled after these crusades. Therein lies the connection. One is an invitation---the other, a response to an invitation. “Come as You Are,” is, to borrow from a song by Beck, a “Strange Invitation.”
Doused in mud, soaked in bleach? What is that all about? In metaphorical terms, it has a conspicuous ablutionary quality to it. But the overall lyrical content of Come As You Are is marked by ambiguity. Today, I wish to juxtapose the two songs in order to demonstrate the contrast between the ambiguity inherent in the invitation offered by a reluctant rock star, and the clarity, and simplicity of both invitation and invitation reply in the case of Just as I Am.
As humans extending invitations to other humans to engage with us in meaningful relationships, we send double messages. We are, by nature, afraid of intimacy. That has to do with the fall, when we, as a human race, were separated from God. Every relationship since that original fall, based on the original sin, has been strained and marked by ambivalence. Our ambivalence as it concerns intimacy depends in many ways on early experiences with objects of attachments. Due to our own fallen human nature, and our hesitancy, as human beings, to become wholly invested in relationships in a truly intimate manner, Kurt Cobain sings, “Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be…” we can identify with the mixed message.
“And I swear that I don’t have a gun…” If it was an expression of reassurance, it misses the mark (no gun pun intended). The song’s character doesn’t have a gun. But why would he even bring up such a subject unless he sensed fear in the intended receiver that killing was imminent. It sounds like the sort of invitation in which a lamb to urged to come before the slaughter.
Some say that the song is prophetic--- and that he is trying to tell the world that he would that Kurt Cobain was aware that someone wanted him dead and that that person(s) would make it look like a suicide by making it appear that he shot himself. I’ve heard many folks say, “Courtney killed Kurt.” Well, I won’t comment directly on that speculation except to say that it’s kind of a stretch, at best. My first impression of Courtney Love was a favorable one. She was gracious, friendly, engaging, and exceedingly, humble enough to receive a set of lyrics I had written on a cause she was actively supporting at the time.
Just as I amLet’s move on to the invitation response contained in the song, Just As I Am. This song is an unambiguous response to invitation. It is an invitation presented by a holy king towards unlikely subjects---lowly sinners, woefully lost. The response to “come boldly before the throne of grace,” is so refreshingly unambiguous that it’s hard to resist. What does one say when, instead of being offered a last meal before one’s execution, a sinner is invited to a heavenly feast that is to be followed by eternal bliss? Sure, we’re hopelessly unworthy, but what are we going to say, “No”?
Christ’s offer is one of unconditional acceptance. Christ doesn’t ask us to get our acts together, and then to follow him. He asks us to simply follow him.
Just as I am and waiting notWe’re all “drenched in mud,” and the blood of our savior is the bleach we soak ourselves in to become “whiter than snow.”
So there, you have it, one song, an invitation, the other--- a response. Just “altar” the initial invitation a bit, follow Come as You Are with Just as I Am, and you’ve got the invitation of Christ to all who will receive him to “Come as You Are,” followed by an unambiguous response of anyone who would yield to the spirit and respond to the invitation of the king with “…Oh lamb of God, I’ come….I come!”