A Lullaby from God: My Lunch with Bruce Springsteen

Lunch was about to begin. And I was hungry. Working in an internal medicine clinic, I cherish the opportunity to leave the stresses and concerns of patient care behind for an hour and commune with my dearest friends. Within ten minutes, three or four of us are packed in a car en route to our regular haunt to eat. Our initial conversation is peppered with towel-snapping humor and self-deprecating stories. However, within a short time we invariably find ourselves exploring issues of faith and family, history and politics. The depth to which we can dive on matters of importance in that brief time of fellowship is extraordinary. In fact, next to God and my wife, these lunches have been most responsible for my conversion to Catholicism. So each day I go to lunch hungry, looking forward to being full. On this day, I was especially hungry.

And so it was that we were driving back to work from lunch when Mike decided to turn on Bruce. Lest you be mistaken or uninformed, there is only one Bruce. Ahem. Bruce Springsteen. How did I learn this? From lunch, of course. Within seconds, our conversation died away as the chords from a teetering pump organ filled the air of the car. Dave leaned forward eagerly from the back seat. He knew this one.  I didn’t. Dream Baby Dream. Mike simply said, “Listen to this.”

Dream baby dream
Dream baby dream
Dream baby dream
Come on and dream baby dream
Come on and dream baby dream

A deep, slightly gravelly voice started to sing a mellifluous poem. Backing him up were three successive chords. The first a solid footing. The second a sweet, sweet yearning. The third arriving home with the gentleness of the softest kiss. Over and over, the three chords would play. Then the most moving words of sympathetic encouragement began,

We gotta keep the light burning
Come on, we gotta keep the light burning
Come on, we gotta keep the light burning
Come on, we gotta keep the light burning
Come on and dream baby dream

 We gotta keep the fire burning
Come on, we gotta keep the fire burning
Come on, we gotta keep the fire burning
Come on and dream baby dream

Then the subtle guitar chords lift the nearly flagging man, the bass weighs in to give a surer footing, and a distant echo of percussion secures a direction, a cadence, a march forward.

 Come open up your heart
Come on and open up your heart
Come on and open up your heart
Come on dream on, dream baby dream

Come on and open up your heart
Come on and open up your hearts
Come on and open up your hearts
Come on dream on, dream baby dream

 Come on, we gotta keep on dreaming
Come on, we gotta keep on dreaming
Come on, we gotta keep on dreaming
Come on dream on, dream baby dream

Dave, the youngest of us, but perhaps the oldest soul, inclined forward from the back seat, “It’s extraordinary. The rhythm. It’s like a mantra.” “Listen.”, Mike again gently implored. I glanced at him and saw him grip the steering wheel harder, lean his head forward and close his eyes…mouthing the words. He was taken.

Come on darling and dry your eyes
Come on baby and dry your eyes
Come on baby and dry your eyes
Come on dream on, dream baby dream

Yeah I just wanna see you smile
Now I just wanna see you smile
Yeah I just wanna see you smile
Come on dream on, dream baby dream

Come on and open up your hearts
Come on and open up your hearts
Come on and open up your hearts
Come on dream on, dream baby dream

By now, Bruce’s voice is more firm, more confident…more joyful. Taking us by the hand he is emboldened by what he sees ahead, by what he is eager to show us. The softest, steady piano joins him, followed by an angelic synthesizer, and then a small band of heavenly voices in unison. Moment after moment the appeals come to dream, to smile, to keep the light burning, to keep the fire burning, to dry our eyes, to open up our hearts. Each request is stronger, more convincing, yet paradoxically ever, ever more tender. There is something I want to show you, he says, that once you see it you’ll see that it’s all worthwhile. Yes, dear God, so worthwhile. And we’re almost there. We’re almost there.

As I sat enveloped and transfixed by this song, I thought perhaps I was hearing the sweetest courtship. A man looking tenderly in the eyes of his love telling her it will be alright. Then, I thought perhaps it could be the warmest of lullabies. A father leaning over the crib or bed singing as his child slipped into delicious and serene sleep, fully protected by her father’s unfailing presence. Yes, perhaps. But then, I realized what I was hearing. It wasn’t necessarily what Suicide (the band who originally wrote this piece) or Bruce intended, but it was what I heard.

This song, this poem, this mantra is a courtship. And it is a lullaby. But it is God’s courtship with and lullaby to man. Three foundational and repeating chords almost like Father, Son, Holy Spirit beckoning us. His earnest courtship calling us to hope. His fatherly lullaby reassuring that all will be well. His hand on ours lifting us when we can’t lift ourselves. His voice speaking first softly and sweetly, then with greater eagerness. “Come with Me. Oh, child just Come with Me. Dream. Smile. Light the Lights and Burn the Fire. Dry Your Eyes, for where I am leading you, there will be no more tears.” Yes. Yes.

It wasn’t too long – all of five minutes. But it was profound. And as we pulled into the clinic parking lot, we sat for just a moment. For just a moment. The music died away. Lunch was about to end. I recall being hungry. But I wasn’t hungry anymore. No. I was more than satisfied. I had just seen a courtship. I had just heard a lullaby. Dream Baby Dream.


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  • Kim

    Beautifully written. Your words are so gentle.

  • kelso

    Strange, Springsteen showing a tender heart. This is the man who rallied for Obama in 2012 saying: “I came here today because I’m thankful for universal health care, the lack of which was for so long an embarrassment to our country; I’m thankful for a more regulated Wall Street; I’m thankful GM is still making cars… I’m here today because I’m concerned about women’s rights. I don’t have to tell you the dangers to Roe v. Wade under our opponent’s policies.”

  • artchic

    I just heard this live for the first time ever last week as he closed out his concert in Cincinnati, my first Springsteen concert. It is still with me, every day. Came across this post just searching up the words. I’m glad you wrote about it.

  • JR

    Hey Patheos admins… how about giving credit to the photographer, rather than using without permission? Because I’m fairly certain you didn’t ask permission or pay for use.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/jrodmanjr/4593315027/


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