Confession: I am a HUGE Rush fan. I think they are heads and shoulders above every other rock group in the world, both in terms of individual skill and what they do as a group. True, lyricist Peart sometimes has some scathing things to say about Christianity, but sadly he often has good reason to speak out against the church.
My introduction to the band was the album “Roll The Bones” (now every Rush fan reading this is cringing- but what can I say- I STILL like the album, even if it isn’t “Moving Pictures”). Pretty funny album for a young Christian boy to get into, since the lyrics for most of the songs are very critical of faith. But one song will always stick out on that album: Bravado. I’d later find out as I got to know the band, while a fantastic song, it’s about as un-Rush as anything they’ve ever done. Straight 4/4 beat, simple parts, and just an uncomplicated song in general. Yet it is masterful and moving in its simplicity, and Peart’s drumming swells and dips with the lyrics in a way that impresses me on every listen. If I ever had a criticism of Rush, it’s that sometimes their lyrics and music don’t match, but that is not true here. When the music drops down on the line “But if love remains” after recounting everything that is lost, I get chills. And as it builds with the strength and power of that love, it just moves my soul.
And I finally get it. For years I didn’t understand this song. I thought lyricist Peart had it wrong. Because as I understood it, the Bible doesn’t jive with the idea that if something is important, we don’t count the cost. In fact, I believed that when we count the cost, we reveal it’s value. And that’s true in some respects. Jesus was very clear that he wanted his disciples to understand what they were getting into when they chose to follow him:
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-33, ESV)
So for years, I’ve written off this song as a nice and beautiful sentiment, but one counter to the words of Jesus. I was not approaching the scriptural text with the nuance that there are different aspects to “counting the cost” and Jesus was making more of a point about commitment to the path than he was the value of discipleship. And actually, commitment to the path is what this song is about (though I’m sure “the path” would be defined very differently by Peart and myself). But consider these words of Jesus:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46, ESV)
This is the ultimate example of valuing something so much that everything else is worth losing in order to get it, and that’s the point of the song “Bravado”. Peart doesn’t really define what it is that is worth so much, except to say “love” (but that can be a very broad term). But “love” is right, isn’t it? Love is the highest law and the summation of the law. God is love. Love is why God redeemed us. The Kingdom of God is worth losing everything for:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26, ESV)
And for some reason, listening to this song tonight in the car, everything clicked. “Bravado” is how I try to live my life. Faith is not about being afraid of failure: earthly failures don’t matter in light of eternity, and eternity cannot fail us. I do some crazy things in faith (for example, investing my time and money into a band that will probably never make a dime!). And why do I do it? Because in the end, if we are following God, it is Worth it. Every. Time.
To go to another favorite of mine, consider this conversation between Gandalf and Frodo in Lord of the Rings:
Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
What is significant about this (spoiler alert!) is that Frodo can only be described as demonstrating the ultimate in perseverance. He does his task, to carry the ring, with all his strength, and does so far better than anyone else might. Certainly better than the humans who would try to take it for themselves. But in the end, Frodo fails! He cannot destroy the ring. It is only the providential evil of Gollum that allows for the ring to be destroyed. And love remains, even though Frodo fails.
What does the word “Bravado” mean? According to Marriam-Webster: “Confident or brave talk or behavior that is intended to impress other people”. Ok, well maybe in general that’s not the proper attitude of a Christian, but the part this where we are to be brave and confident despite the overwhelming task before us- imminent failure on a human level- well that IS part of the Christian life. So I think I’m finally able to embrace this song and its message.
All we can do is abide in Christ, doing the things he’s set for us to do:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5, ESV)
We may or may not be successful as we seek do to the work of God. We may end up with failed music groups, failed churches, failed marriages, or any number of failures in this broken world. But in the end, we are called to be bold and do the work set out before us, because God will overcome all, and love WILL remain.