When it comes to music, I got stuck in the ‘70’s. In my mind, very little compares favorably to Carole King or James Taylor—or Gordon Lightfoot, America, or Seals and Crofts. My favorite Spotify playlist is called “Dad’s Groovy Music” because since the ‘70’s, I have been groovy—the way a 33LP ought to be.
So it’s no wonder that I dig Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s most popular single: Southern Cross. (I know, it’s from the early 80’s, but it has the flavor of the 70’s.) Ostensibly, the song is about the famous astronomical wonder down under: The Southern Cross. In reality, the song is about the breakup of Stephen Stills’s marriage. When understood in this context, the song contains at least three significant life lessons.
First—and I will admit that this first lesson applies more broadly than a single song—Southern Cross is about listening for redemption. Some would argue that Christians ought not listen to secular music at all because it does not glorify God. They would say that holiness demands our abstaining from Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I am not mocking their position. The point is valid. I once cleansed myself of a 130 volume CD collection out of concern for holiness. Music is a vehicle for carrying a message, and its message can easily carry us away from everything good. Never listen with an unguarded mind. But if we listen with a guarded mind, we can find hints of redemption.
Here is what I mean. In the Old Testament, God’s people were told to be Holy because the Lord their God is Holy. The same message is affirmed for God’s people in the New Testament. But a significant change happened between the Old Testament and the New. Jesus came, and with Jesus came redemption. In the Old Testament, holiness took the form of abstaining from things the rest of the nations were indulging.
Life Lesson 1: In the New Testament, holiness looks less like abstention and more like redemption. Meditate on Paul’s comments in Colossians 2:20-22, and you will see what I mean. Christians are holy through the redemption of Christ. We are alive to a new resurrected reality and, as such, ought to be those who point everything and everyone in this world to reality of Christ and His kingdom, which has begun.
So, with redemptive ears turned to the message of the Southern Cross, I offer two more life lessons. These are easily grasped. Stephen Sills wrote this song after his divorce in an attempt to find healing. His crying out to his estranged wife is evident in the line: “In a noisy bar in Avalon, I tried to call you.” He then admits that he understands why twice she ran away.
But in the chorus, he makes plain the permanence of marriage: “What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.” Stills even acknowledges that “spirits” are using him, and a larger voice is calling. He gets that divorce cost him something real. He gets that he needs something larger than himself if he will heal. He looks to the heavens for his help but comes up short, finding only the Southern Cross. With redemptive ears, we can hear the permanence of eternal things even in secular lyrics.
Life Lesson Two: God has set eternity into every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Listen to others with redemptive ears, and you will be able to point them to eternal realities.
Finally, realize that most folks live in a contradictory mindset. While Stills gets the eternal nature of marriage, he feels also that it is lost. So, he must conclude, “Somebody fine will come along, Make me forget about loving you. At the Southern Cross.” On the one hand, he sees that marriage is an eternal reality which cannot be forgotten. On the other hand, when he feels all is lost, he professes belief that someone will come along who can erase it all.
If we listen closely to what others are saying, we might help them see that eternal things are real, and they need not give in to the contradiction.
Life Lesson Three: Eternity is real. Don’t live in contradiction.
 Colossians2:20ff, If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence (NASB).
The power of music resonates strongly in us, I agree, and purposefully so! So any in the Bible sang their love to God. He must love a good song, one where our hearts flow free in the notes of praise for His Name’s sake. Thanks for sending my thoughts down this path.
**So many, not ‘any’.
Darrell, it is a good path for our minds to travel. Do you think it is significant that Moses left the people at the end of Deuteronomy with a song before he died and they entered the Promised Land? The way they were supposed to remember all that he taught them was through song. Powerful, indeed!
I’d agree. Such music has over us is incredible and worthy of vigilance, lest we, like Abraham’s children, are seduced by a different tune and to speak in 21st Century terms, remove the old one from our playlist. As one wordsmith puts it, “your soul, it can’t be bought, but your mind can wander…”
I’d agree. It’s power is incredible and worthy of vigilance, lest we, like Abraham’s children, are seduced by a different tune and to speak in 21st Century terms, remove the old one from our “playlist”. As one wordsmith puts it, “your soul, it can’t be bought, but your mind can wander…”