The Queen of Iowa and New Year Hopes

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He gets the words wrong, but his heart is in it as he sings. Andrew Peterson’s “The Queen of Iowa” somehow becomes “The King of Ireland” when sung by our two-year old son. Talk about progressive. His version goes beyond gender-neutrality into categorical inaccuracy and also breaks up those long-held biases about geographic specificity.

I thank God our cute little boy doesn’t yet fully understand all the words he tries to sing. For this is a song about suffering and death. And, of course, life and light. I hope, as he matures, he does get it.

I hope I do.

This seems like a good song (and story –please watch the video) for some context on what we see as struggles and suffering and how we see them. It’s perhaps good for our New Year hopes. Are we wishing for a pain-free, suffering-free New Year? I’ll admit that it’s a deep longing for me. Part of that desire I view as righteous, longing for the Kingdom to come all the way and the world to be made right again. The other part is selfish, wanting to be spared the troubles God intends to use as tools to work good in me. Pain is often an avenue to graceful maturity.

Two of the sweetest and most refreshing Christian friends I met this year had recently experienced the death of their only child. In the deep well of their suffering, they spoke of all the good God was doing in their lives. They did more than speak, though. They sang along to the God-tells-me-who-I-am songs of Jason Gray with passion. My friend wasn’t the greatest singer, he didn’t hit all the right notes, but it was among the most beautiful singing I’ve ever heard. Jason never had better accompaniment. I couldn’t sing along for the lump in my throat. This couple, so outfitted with reasons to surrender to bitterness and anger, radiated generosity and grace.

Do miracles still happen?

That is the mercy of God. That is maturity. God wants his children to have maturity–childlike faith and maturity.

We will not always get the words right and we will not always sing on-key, but let us keep singing.

So, Almighty God, do your work in us, frightened as we are. For we would be mature and childlike. We would be as you want us, for you are what we want and all our hearts need.

Andrew says meeting the Queen “. . . helped me to believe the words of my own songs.”

Maybe a good prayer for the New Year is that God would give us experiences, even painful ones if he must, that cause us to believe, and believe more deeply, all that we confess with our lips.

Because sometimes we get the words right, but our hearts wrong. The reverse is better, I guess. But best of all would be both.

May our hearts and tongues be in harmony this year and in the years to come. May they sing the same song, for the glory of God, Most High.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
(Colossians 1:24-29 ESV)


15 Comments

  1. James Witmer

    Yes!

    Yes, miracles still happen. Yes, God reveals his love by His passionate, Fatherly dedication to our maturity

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

    Yes, I needed to be reminded yet again.

    Thanks, Sam (and Andrew) for calling our hope toward our only true Hope.

  2. Loren

    “So, Almighty God, do your work in us, frightened as we are. For we would be mature and childlike. We would be as you want us, for you are what we want and all our hearts need.”

    You’ve nailed it again, Sam. I long for God to do His work in me so that I will shine with Him like the Queen of Iowa, like my 92-year-old grandmother, etc. I know I want Him above all, but I constantly fight that fear of what He might take from me next. And yet, when He does, the result is always something I wouldn’t exchange for the return of anything He has taken.

  3. Loren Eaton

    I bought The Far Country about two days before my father unexpectedly died. I will remember listening to this song as I drove around town dealing with all of the necessary funeral things.

    Yet another reason why I’m a Calvinist.

  4. carrie luke

    It took about 10 minutes for my heart rate to return to normal because after glancing at the title, I though maybe Jodi had her homecoming. I think and pray for her often. I was excited and deeply saddened all in the same moment.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I lost my beautiful friend, Sydney (35years old, wife and mother of 3 small children) this year to a brain tumor. Andrew’s story and song, QOI is one of my favorites, and it feels good to be reminded of how near God can feel in such loss and sadness. It doesn’t remove the grief but we can grieve with hope and the company of His presence when our hearts are soft and open to it.

    “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1: 78-79

    Praise Be.

  5. Peter B

    Loren: “I know I want Him above all, but I constantly fight that fear of what He might take from me next.

    This describes me so well. I fear to ask to be made more like Christ. Thank you all for the wonderful reminders of who He is and why this is so necessary.

  6. Jenn C

    Thanks so very much for the reminder to think about what I hope for in the new year. I’ve slipped into wishing for relief on so many levels, but that’s not always where the fruit is. I can hope for those things to be better, and I can pray for them to be, but my eyes should be set on the greater prize – a closer walk with my Lord an Savior.

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