Questions and Answers #1: “Faithfully” (featuring Journey and Steven Curtis Chapman)

Questions and Answers #1: “Faithfully” (featuring Journey and Steven Curtis Chapman) May 30, 2012

The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words — `free-love’ — as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. — G. K. Chesterton

For our first installment of “Questions and Answers,” we will focus on love and faithfulness. The first “question” is posed in one of the most famous rock ballads of all time, Journey’s “Faithfully.” (I was playing this at the house of some friends the other week, prompting the mother to say, “You are the most retro college girl I know!”)

Now of course, this song isn’t written as a question. In fact, it’s a declarative pledge of fidelity. Still, it raises all manner of unspoken questions. Written by Journey pianist Jonathan Cain (who can be seen looking at his wife’s picture at 1:00), it’s an essentially autobiographical meditation on the pain and tensions of being a married “music man.” The singer recognizes the many ways in which the rock-star lifestyle is taking its toll on both himself and his wife, but he feels helpless to do anything about it. He can only hope that their love won’t come crashing down, that the “two strangers” they become to each other when they’re apart will never stop being able to rekindle the flame. Meanwhile, he offers a promise that one way or another, if she stands by him, he will stand by her.

Sadly, Cain and his wife went on to divorce only a few years later, demonstrating that a promise without an anchor is a very fragile thing, and a well-intentioned resolution to love without fully understanding how to love can only take you so far when a marriage is cracking. This, then, becomes the question: How? How does a man truly love a woman?

Most of you, upon seeing Steven Curtis Chapman in the title, probably thought I would use his famous wedding song “I Will Be Here” as the “answer” in this entry. I certainly could have. But I actually chose a different, less well-known song also written for his wife: “Go There With You.” It’s a little more raw, a little more urgent, and it conveys a deeper sense of pain and struggle.  In fact, at the time the performance I’m featuring was recorded, Steven’s wife had just been diagnosed with clinical depression, something she had struggled with for a long time without giving it a name. Steven’s career was at an all-time peak, but she was barely holding together through it all. The Great Adventure tour, the very tour this video comes from, was almost canceled as a result.

So even while he projected an infinitely more wholesome, put-together image than your average rock singer on the stage, Steven knew even better than most musicians how painful a life on the road could be. But he had something they didn’t, and that was a true understanding of the nature of love. He knew that the words “I love you” had to mean “something more” every time he said them, even though he’d said them a thousand times before. And he understood that love meant taking a heart that was naturally selfish, because like any human heart it belonged to a broken man, and filling it up with Mary Beth. It meant taking her joy and pain and making it his own. And at the heart of it all lies this line, “I will give myself to love, the way Love gave itself for me.” The greatest Love of all has been displayed for us in the person of Christ laying down his life for the Church. And Steven sees that this is how it must be for himself as a husband.

That is why even though depression would continue to be a way of life for Mary Beth, and even though their greatest trials still lay ahead of them, they have remained husband and wife to this day. Such is the fruit of a human love that rests on the firm foundation of Christ.

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  • Lydia

    Had never heard “Go There With You” before. Neat song. What occurs to me too is that Mary Beth also had the same commitment that her husband had. People in the throes of depression can do despairing things, including breaking up marriages, suicide, all kinds of things, but she has not succumbed to any of that. Both members of the couple with that commitment make for a long-term stable marriage through whatever comes. Because what comes to them is seen in a sense as coming from “outside,” as an attempt by the world (or the devil) or by misfortune to tear them apart, and they stand together against those centrifugal forces.
    I also couldn’t help thinking while listening to the Chapman song of the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease and of some of the discussions last year surrounding Robertson’s outrageous statement that it is legitimate to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. I had some discussions on-line about that at the time that really shocked me–people’s susceptibility to that way of thinking.

  • Indeed. Another thing though that was really brought home to me after reading about what it was like in Mary Beth’s own words is that on-the-road ministry is a crushing, crushing burden. Even as Mary Beth was sinking deeper into depression, she had this determination that she didn’t want to hold her husband back, she had to pull herself together somehow, etc., because all these plans were being set in motion for him, inevitably it seemed. His managers told her they could “pull the plug” at any time, but she felt like no, no, this was what Steven should be doing, and anyway, she had a sense that “No matter what, the way the business works, this tour was going to happen.” And when he was actually on tour, it was incredibly difficult for him to give her the support she needed, simply because he wasn’t there. He would call her every night, but he could only do so at a time when she was normally asleep.
    It’s really a very sad story. On the one hand it makes me all the more grateful for the people who make those kinds of sacrifices, while on the other hand it reminds me that anyone considering a career like that must weight the cost VERY carefully before going into it.

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