The Story Behind “More Like Falling In Love” (Or: What Vibrant Faith Has In Common With A Toilet Bowl)

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I’ve been talking about our recent radio promotional tour in support of the new single, “More Like Falling In Love”.  I went on the road with Josh Petersen for a week to visit our friends at radio stations between TX and MN and more often than not they’d invite me on air to talk about the story behind the song. So far, the song is gaining a lot of support and we’re so grateful.  This was the song I’d always hoped would connect at radio.

I’d been kicking around the idea for “More Like Falling In Love” for a few years, writing it once as a ballad, once as a brit-pop kind of a song… I always suspected that it was a simple and potent enough idea for a song that if written right could have a wide appeal.  When I started working with Jason Ingram, I brought the idea to him and he jumped in with me, helping me make the most of it.  It became a groovy kind of summer-time love song, which of course is exactly what it should have been all along. I mean c’mon – it is a love song after all.  Ever since we wrote it, we’ve been excited to send it out into the world and see what would happen. I’ve been blessed by its enthusiastic reception.

It’s an important idea to me, that – as G. K. Chesterton has said – our Christianity should look “less like a theory and more like a love affair.” Sometimes I think we’re in danger of making our faith solely about intellectual assent to the facts of who Jesus was/is.  Is it weird to anyone else that we’ve made salvation a matter of who has the best information? The danger, at least for me, is that an intellectualized faith can lose its heart, and over and over we are told in scripture that the heart is, well… the heart of the matter.  But I believe Jesus came to give us more than just better information about who God is, I believe he came to give us access to a relationship with God.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s essential that we believe well and foster good theology.  Bad theology has done more damage in Christendom than perhaps anything else.  But that’s a discussion for another song…

I’ve wondered: We seem intent on protecting our hearts from God – knowing that to give him true, unlimited access to our hearts is to risk having our whole world turned upside down.  Though Jesus is called “The Prince Of Peace” we suspect that he is a disturber of the peace as well – at least of the false, half-hearted, varieties of peace we try to create for ourselves with relationships, job-security, money, etc.  Instinctively we know that it’s a risky venture to get too tangled up with God.

So do we intellectualize our faith in a subconscious attempt to keep God at a safer distance?  It’s a thought worth reflecting on, perhaps.

But even this is a heady kind of reflection about a song that is trying to get to the heart of what matters most.  One of the most remarkable things about Christianity to me is that because of Christ we can have communion with God.  At its most basic level, the story of Christianity is a love story about the relationship between God and man.  He even refers to us as his bride. So to get this point across, the story I’ve been sharing with radio audiences is a story about a relationship of mine that has taught me a great deal about the difference between law and love.  And it goes like this:

Taya – my wife – is from the Bellingham, WA and she flies home to be with her family at least once a year.  She’s also very clean and orderly, and I – as you might imagine – am… well… not.  So in our first year of marriage, when she was flying back home from a week with her family, it occurred to me that I should probably clean up the house that I had managed to thoroughly destroy within hours of her departure.  But then I had what seemed like a brilliant thought at the time: “hey, if I wait until she gets home, she can help me clean the house.  She seems to like cleaning the house anyways…”

It sounded very reasonable in my mind, but… obviously it wasn’t such a good thought. I would soon learn that Taya didn’t think it was a good idea either.

You can imagine that after a period of being apart from each other, I might have hoped for a happy, loving reunion.  But that was not to be.  And thus, I learned my lesson.  If I wanted Taya to be happy, the house had to be clean when she got home.  And so I learned what I had to do to fulfill the letter of the law of Taya in that regard, and from then on, whenever she would return home from a trip, I would follow the letter of that law and consequently I’d do the least I had to do to fulfill my obligations.

I would sweep things under the couch.  I would rearrange the dirty dishes in a way that made it look like there were less than there actually were… you get the idea.  It was all very half-hearted. Of course Taya knew it, but was very gracious, and this is how it went for the next few years.

And then about 4 years into our marriage, she was coming home again, and – again – I did the least that I had to do to get the job done. But then something strange happened, and I had a new thought, unlike any I’d ever had before: “Man, Taya would be really surprised if I oiled our hard wood floors…” So, after finding the oil and the mop, I polished those floors to perfection.  And then I had another thought: “you know, Taya would feel really loved if I were to vacuum the upstairs”. And so I found the vacuum cleaner, figured out how to turn it on, and proceeded to not only vacuum the upstairs but dust and wash the bedding and clean the mirrors and on and on through the rest of the little green farm house we rented, driven by some new found desire to please her.

When I finished in a sweat, I went to clean up in the bathroom, and what you need to understand and appreciate here is that we lived on a farm with well water that smelled sulfuric and left an orange residue everywhere it sat. Taya had been away for a couple of weeks, so you can imagine what our toilet bowl looked like.  Or maybe you can’t imagine.  Perhaps you shouldn’t…

To put it mildly, the toilet bowl was stained with a muddy orange silt that had sat and become one with the porcelain over that last couple of weeks. And then I had my last, best, and most radical thought of that day:

“Taya would be amazed if she were to come home to a spotless toilet bowl!”

And so I got down on my knees and scrubbed that thing while angel choirs descended from heaven and extolled the virtues of the cleanliness of our toilet bowl.

Taya was indeed amazed. Almost as much as I was. Afterwards I was wondering about what the heck came over me, and I realized that all along I had been doing the least that was required of me out of obligation to the law of Taya, but this time it was different – I had done it out of love.  And that is the distinction.

This provided me with a real life picture of the difference between dead religion and a vibrant relationship with Christ, where faith can either be a burdensome, obligatory, passionless ideology or a response to love that spontaneously erupts and spills out of our lives like an artesian well that cannot be contained.

I know which one I prefer, how about you?


13 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason, great post. It begs a convicting question: Where am I doing just the bare minimum, or even rebelling, because I am holding to a Law/self-effort paradigm rather than in faith loving Christ and by faith giving myself to Him?

    I’ve got my own answers to that one. That Law thinking is insidious and can easily creep into an area without our realizing it.

    I’ll take the faith that energizes with dynamic, unstoppable power rather than the puny human effort that does the bare minimum.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Laurel

    I’ve so appreciated this song and the way it has challenged my thinking and my heart, Jason. So glad to hear the story behind it!

  3. Ben Bryan

    Jason, thanks for this post. It’s refreshing to hear such a rich understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God. So often in Christian circles today we hear calls to a relationship with God. But more often than not it’s vague and empty. People say things like “it’s not a religion it’s a relationship” and have little idea of what they mean by “religion” and have a decidedly shallow concept of a “relationship.” Often this appeal to relationship ends up in a sort of “Jesus is my boyfriend” (or homeboy) sort of approach to Christianity. It’s personal, but its shallow and silly and is a cheap way to avoid thinking by turning Christianity into a matter of feelings.

    Frankly when I started reading this post, I worried a bit. Just the title of the song irked me a tad. I mean, I know what you mean and all and I don’t disagree entirely, but you’re probably just a little bit flaky, right? Wrong. When you quote Chesterton I thought “really? Whatever Chesterton meant by love is almost certainly richer than whatever shallow Christian pop-culture notion of ‘relationship’ you’re expressing.” Then I realized that my skepticism was unfounded when you told that story about your wife. Key word: WIFE. Jesus is not a boyfriend or a homeboy he is the husband of his bride. The metaphor of marriage helps us understand that love is doing and being, not just feeling. And your story displays your learning just that in marriage.

    And that, of course, is convicting, because I can criticize people all day for their shallow conceptions of relationship, but I often live according to such a conception, giving the sort of do-as-little-as-possible obedience you describe. So I guess I don’t have so much room to talk, now do I. So thanks for reminding this cynical overthinker a little bit about what loving God looks like, and for undermining my unfair, presumptuous conclusion-jumping.

  4. sid

    First I want to say I really like your music, bought all the CDs and really enjoyed your concerts when your in the area. But I’m just not connecting to this new album and I’ve tried to like it. It’s too pop oriented for me and would have enjoyed it much more stripped down. Just my taste.

    As far as the song, unless you know the background as you’ve explained above, it does seem like Jesus is my boyfriend kind of song. One of the big problems with the church is a postmodern subjective “feeling’ or ‘experience” without the gospel. As you’ve explained above both need to be there, but to me, it just feels like a KLOVE rotation song.

    I know that music connects with people different ways, and I know a lot people connect with this album, but just not with me. Just my individual thoughts and look forward to your music and concerts.

  5. Jesse D

    Bellingham, for those who have never been, is possibly the most beautiful town I have seen, and I was priveleged to live there for a year and a half while finishing my degree at Western Washington University.

    Excellent thoughts, Jason. A strong reminder that my efforts at maintaining my relationship with God often look more like those whirlwind, half-hearted attempts to straaighten up (five minutes skimming the Scriptures before bed and prayer over the meal at dinnertime) than the real work of pursuing Him and loving Him well.

  6. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    We have to be careful, though, about throwing baby out with bathwater. Subjective experience of God is not necessarily in having feelings of God, but the experience of stepping out in faith on what He says and seeing Him come through. This may or may not be accompanied by feelings of Him being with us.

    If I didn’t live with my wife, I could possibly, nevertheless, know a lot about her. I could know all the facts of her childhood, what she is like, how she responds in certain situations, how she treats people. I could know this by asking others, by reading about her, etc.

    But I could not truly “know” her, in the sense of ginosko, be “one” with her, spiritually, emotionally, or physically, if I did not live with her; that is, if I did not experience her subjectively, relationally, relatively.

    So there are absolutes, and such. I’m not denying that. But there is a subjective element with God that we must enter; we must experience the relativity of God. How He relates to each one of us is unique and completely tailored for our particular personality. That is why there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter Christian.

  7. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Sorry to hear it didn’t connect for you Sid, but I get it. I really do. Different strokes for different folks, that’s cool.

    However, I was encouraged to hear you say that it sounds like a KLOVE regular rotations song, because that’s one of the things we tried to accomplish with this song – success!

    I met with a friend of mine in radio yesterday who’s working this single. He’s the guy that promotes it, advocating for the song, asking radio programmers to give the song a good listen, etc. This friend of mine is one of the most respected guys in the business and is a HUGE fan of music. His faves are guys like Mark Heard, Dylan, and Rich Mullins (he has the most amazing Rich Mullins stories!). He’s one of us! He paid me the kindest compliment when he told me that he tells radio programmers that “Christian radio is better with this song on the air. Christian radio is better with Brandon Heath on the air, with Need To Breathe on the air, and it’s better with Jason Gray on the air, because these are artists of the kind of depth and quality you don’t always hear on Christian radio – they raise the game”

    Now that may be an overly generous assessment of the value of my song, but I get what he was saying and I’m so grateful that he counts me among the artists that he feels bring a certain quality to radio.

    A lot of people complain about Christian radio and the songs they play. They complain that Christian radio doesn’t support music of depth and artistic integrity. But another part of the story is that a lot of great artists have abandoned radio, abdicating their role of influence there.

    So I thought we’d try to do something about it and serve radio with a song that would serve their audience well. But I wanted to do that with a song or songs that spoke their language and yet hopefully had a little more depth and craft than the standard fare. Did we succeed at that? I’m not qualified to say yes or no, but that was the aim.

    I’m equally irritated by songs that give us tired “Jesus as my boyfriend,” or “God as my girlfriend” cliches – and there is no shortage of them. But what if we dressed up a song to look like that but that had a little more weight to it? That would be very gratifying and would not only serve a radio market, but hopefully would be a Kingdom building kind of song – a song worth being heard.

    Some of us have baggage and have a hair-trigger reaction to any whiff of the Christian Test-a-mint culture that sometimes seems to dominate the landscape. I’m one of them – that stuff makes me crazy.

    But what if I could get the attention of that crowd and share some of the thought and experience that has enriched me? What if I could love them by serving them? That would be gratifying and worthwhile – more worthwhile than singing songs to people who already agree with me. With that audience, I could maybe do some good. It’s maybe a little subversive, but that makes it even more fun when it’s working!

    This record, and a song like this, was very missional in that sense. From my perspective, I’m thrilled that a song like “More Like Falling In Love” could co-exist with a song like “The Golden Boy & The Prodigal” on the same record. I had hoped that people who care about good, thoughtful music would think I was one of the good guys and they’d be excited that one of my songs was doing well – finally. After all these years.

    Almost all of the great artists that I would imagine many of the people here in the rabbit room love have had some “hit” song that helped their audience find them. Derek Webb, Sara Groves, Andrew Peterson. They have the careers they have now because of those early hits. I haven’t had that. I’d like to keep making music and ministering to the body of Christ, singing the songs I’ve been entrusted with, advocating for the poorest of the poor. Without a hit that would help my audience discover me, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to sustain this vocation. That’s not meant to be a “poor me” or anything like that, but just a little peek behind the scenes of how our lives work.

    Let me say, too, that in the making of this record we never dumbed anything down. That wouldn’t be loving the audience, but rather using them. However, I did look for simple and sturdy ideas that might work for a radio audience and that I could also believe in and sing every night.

    The funny thing is that the artistic, deep songs are the easiest to write. It’s the pop songs that are the hardest to write. By far the hardest.

    So, again – back to Sid – I’m sorry you didn’t connect with it, and I’m glad you think it sounds like a radio song! Let’s hope so. But what it was never meant to be, nor do I think it is, a standard fare “Jesus as my boyrfiend, God as my girlfriend song.” To hear it that way, in my opinion, might be imposing our own baggage on it.

    When G.K. Chesterton or Donald Miller says it, people think it’s brilliant. I’d hope that when Jason Gray tries to take what G.K. Chesterton or Donald Miller said and make a pop song out of it to be heard by a whole segment of Christian culture who wouldn’t otherwise hear of Chesterton or Miller, that the same people would be in my corner, pumping their fists in the air, cheering for a win.

  8. Nathaniel Miller

    I lost my taste for the pop sound a while ago, but I am totally down with your music. The reason is that the lyrics do have more weight. I think that is what is missing in almost every genre of the Christian music business, except for the Rabbit Room. Pixar showed that animation isn’t just simply for children. They can tell great stories that can affect the emotions and thoughts of adults. I feel you have done the same with pop on this album. While it is perceived as musically inferior, you have given it the solid lyrics it needs to be effective. And that is why I will make sure that More Like Falling in Love and some others from your album get some air time on the loud speakers at camp this summer. It’s not the radio, but it’s good stuff for the kids to be hearing!

    By the way, I love Fade with Our Voices. It’s the song I have been waiting for years for someone to write concerning what true worship is. Thank you so much for writing it because I above all needed to hear it.

  9. Peter B

    Jason, I just finished listening to the whole album; thank you for the whole encouraging, deep-yet-fun piece of work. Now what would be REALLY great is if they’d start playing ESICU in regular rotation…

    My own knowledge-worship has kept me down in the past, but I’ve been encouraged recently by a realization that God is pulling me out of myself and into one-ness with Christ; maybe someday soon I’ll be able to articulate it.

    Your toilet story was nothing less than beautiful. THAT is where it is. Thank you again.

    Oh, and if you’re still touring with the Afters, say hi to Matt for me. We miss them.

  10. Adam Bennett

    *pump-fist* 🙂

    Jason
    Your depth has always been the first thing that has attracted me to your music/art and always will. Keep listen, following and writing.

  11. Kaitlyn

    I was listening to KLOVE the other day and heard this song. I looked it up when i got home and i was so proud and happy to find out that it was written by you, Jason Gray! i have been listening to your music for awhile and its about time you got your publicity break. 😉

    God Bless!

  12. Amber Leffel

    Nathaniel, I echo everything you say in that first paragraph of yours! Most modern Christian radio music consits of truthful but shallow lyrics and tin melodies, I’ve found, and have therefore turned me off to pop music. Jason, thanks for communicating my heart through “More Like Falling in Love.” It came at a time where I needed to express it that way.

    In detail, just in case you’re curious, I had been really struggling with surrender vs. defeat in regards to the Lord. People had urged and urged what I thought I had already done years ago, saying, “Just surrender. Just give your all to God. Just surrender.” This was difficult to me because I did not want to go down without a fight–but I wanted to go down for sure. I knew that if I just “surrendered,” I could “pick it right back up”; but if it was more like FALLING IN LOVE, then my relationship/commitment/obedience to the Lord would be true and relatively constant. There is another song that really poses my heart–these are some lyrics from “Hurricane” by Jimmy Needham:

    I need You like a hurricane;
    Thunder crashing, wind and rain,
    To tear my walls down;
    I’m only Yours now.

    It’s Your eye in the storm
    Watching over me
    And it’s Your eye in the storm
    Wanting only good for me
    AND IF YOU ARE THE WAR,
    LET ME BE THE CASUALTY
    Till I am Yours alone,
    I am only Yours;
    I am Yours alone.

    This is in agreement with your song, I feel. Falling in love with Jesus, being “defeated” by His love, is what brings the change in us. A series of events, including an unprecedented sermon from my pastor & your song, showed me that the Lord agrees with me–it has GOT to be more like falling in love. THAT is where the True Stuff happens.

    Thanks. 🙂

  13. Adam Bennett

    AND IF YOU ARE THE WAR,
    LET ME BE THE CASUALTY

    What a great line. Thanks for sharing Amber. I’ve never heard that song/artist before.

    Also love the concept of “being defeated” by His love. I fight more than I should. Thankfully, He has the might to win the war.

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