sarah harmer’s take…

Canadian musician Sarah Harmer has a new album out next month, but in advance her label has released a single from the album entitled ‘Captive’. You can hear it on her website, here. I was struck by the logic of the lyrics. The song-writer points to our sometime inability to live well within a relationship (thus, ‘forget the way I acted’) and then expresses her desire to be ‘held captive’ in the relationship – her voluntary wish is to be ‘fenced in’ and to be ‘held to this thing’ so that she can live in the joy and delight of love. The counterpoint is that if she is not fenced in (even if it is a wholly voluntary fencing in) she won’t get to the good stuff. Thus, the song opens:

I want to be held captive (Oh oh oh)
Forget the way I acted (Oh oh oh)
It’s just I’m out of practice (Oh oh oh)
and d-distracted.

And ends with:

Fence me in and keep me close
Fence me in and keep me close to you

The  lyrics strike me because they seem to go against a fundamental presuppostion of much of modern culture – namely, that law and freedom, captivity and liberty are fundamentally opposed to each other, especially when it comes to relationships. That is, relationships are only ‘healthy’ and desireable if they are free of any sense of obligation and duty – free of any sense of constraint.  The logic of Harmer’s song, however seems to overlap with the ancient logic of marriage – which suggests that a woman and man bind themselves together (through free covenant-making) precisely to mitigate those factors that invariably attempt to push them apart. As a man and woman marry, they essentially offer Harmer’s words to each other: “Fence me in and keep me close to you.”

I was at a long, desperately frustrating church meeting last night (Presbytery of Montreal) at which we sang an old hymn in which this same logic is on display – only this time in relationship to God:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let that grace now, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Perhaps this echo of an older logic with the lyrics of a contemporary musician shouldn’t surpise me as much as it does.


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