Faith, Love, and Boring Narratives: “I’m All Your’n”

“There Ain’t Two Ways Around It / There Ain’t No Trying ‘Bout It”

Connor Gwin / 8.18.20

There ain’t two ways around it
There ain’t no trying ’bout it
I’m all your’n and you’re all mine

-“All Your’n,” Tyler Childers

Do you remember that couple in high school that was always fighting? I like to think that there is a general and universal high school experience that we all can tap into. One feature of this experience was the couple that was always picking at each other: always about to break up, broken up, or newly back together. 

There are a million pop songs about couples like this. It would seem that these bickering high school couples grow up into bickering adult couples. Some pop songs go so far as to use the word “hate” to describe these romantic relationships. The classic from Rihanna comes to mind with its catchy chorus: “And I hate how much I love you, boy (yeah) / I can’t stand how much I need you (I need you).”

There is another style of love song that doesn’t seem to get much airtime. These songs describe romantic relationships that will never get a reality show or make the cover of a tabloid, the ones that are comfortable in love. These songs are rare because they are the opposite of the dominant cultural narrative about love and relationships. 

Tyler Childers sings in his raspy, Kentucky croon, “There ain’t two ways around it / There ain’t no trying ’bout it / I’m all your’n and you’re all mine.”

Taking the idea a bit further on their song “A Little Bit of Everything,” Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes sings, “I think that love is so much easier than you realize / If you can give yourself to someone / Then you should.”

We have a hard time giving ourselves away, or, more accurately, we think it is hard to do. Our culture is marked by individualism, promotion, and narrativizing. We are all crafting our own story, our own brand, while simultaneously judging our place in the larger cultural narrative. We live as though we are writing our memoir or the plot to our life’s movie as we go. We all have our stories that we have embellished just a little for dramatic effect as though our lives were a drama for others to consume. 

Going through the discernment process to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, you get used to telling your story. In the years-long process, you end up telling the story of your call to ministry over and over again to new groups of strangers to prove that God has called you to this odd vocation. You have to show that you are certainly called by God but that you aren’t prideful or so overly confident as to know for sure but you couldn’t do anything else in life (and also sacraments). Ask any ordained person and I imagine they will tell you it started to feel like performance art by the end of the process. 

The same thing applies to our narrativizing around love and romance. I have told the story of how I met my wife a million times. I love to tell the story because it seems so picturesque. The CliffsNotes version is that we met at an Episcopal church in college, but when I really get going with the story you would think that our meet-cute was scripted by Hollywood’s best. 

The truth is much more boring. The band Rex Orange County sings, “Lovin’ is easy” and we’ve found that to be true. We met at church and realized we were each other’s person. That was it. No big trials or tribulations; no Rihanna ballads about how much we hate yet love each other. We just sort of recognized what was happening and settled in. Ten years and one child later, we’ve had our tough moments and hard life situations, sure, but we’ve both settled in for the long haul.

That story doesn’t sell very well, but it is the story of many people in many relationships. At some point, we realized “I’m all your’n and you’re all mine.” 

Our personal faith stories can be quite similar. There is a trend now to have a harrowing faith story full of dark nights of the soul. This has always been partly true. I remember coming up with the most dramatic way to give my testimony at youth group and summer camp. I would weave a story that would impress the Prodigal Son about how I wandered far from home only to come back to Jesus. 

There isn’t room in our culture for a story of boring love or growing up in the church and staying — though these might be more common or more gratifying. We simply cannot accept that someone might give themselves away or give up the power to pen their own narrative.

There aren’t any reality shows about being married for fifty years because they would be boring as hell. Can you imagine those “confessional”-style interviews?  

We don’t often hear people sharing their testimony about giving their lives to Jesus when they were younger and settling in for the long haul. (“My parents had me baptized when I was a baby, and I just kept coming back to church.”)

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

As our current societal moment has taught us, just because you don’t hear a story doesn’t mean it isn’t there or isn’t true. For many people, faith is as natural as breath — it just is. Our secular age may have made belief fragile but belief is still around and might just be “easier than you realize.” Go into any small town church and you will meet people who have been through terrible things but have always had faith. In small towns in particular, where perhaps people are not as caught by the need to craft their own narrative, you will find so many people who have a settled faith. “There ain’t no tryin’ bout it.”

The truth is that we don’t all have to have a dark night of the soul. We don’t have to weave a harrowing narrative of faith and doubt, love and hate, wandering and return. The life of faith naturally has ups and downs, bends and curves, but it is ultimately a settling into the love of God that remains constant.

In the Gospels, God has proclaimed his love for us. God has declared, in no uncertain terms, “I’m all your’n and you’re all mine.” The life of faith is returning to that fact. Jesus gave himself over to love and all that comes with it.

The night before his death, Jesus shows us the Ultimate Truth that your life is not about you. “Not my will, but your will be done,” Jesus prayed. 

It is fitting that the Church uses marriage metaphors to describe Jesus’s relationship with his people. Couples in marriage give themselves over to each other and accept all that comes with that. The vows of marriage are a beautiful way of publicly declaring that my life is no longer about me. Parents give themselves over to their children. Family members give themselves over to each other. Friends give themselves up in myriad ways to serve each other.

It may be not make for the best movie, but declaring to someone or Someone, “I’m all your’n and you’re all mine, is the only kind of story that matters.