About 1982 my family and I moved to Coal City, Indiana and I reconnected with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. His name was Richard, and he was a musician, too. I was playing strictly acoustic guitar in those days, and he loaned me one of his amplifiers and an electronic effects unit for guitar. (For you guitar geeks out there, it was an Ibanez rackmount unit with compressor, overdrive, chorus, flanger and phaser.) All of this opened up a whole new world of wonderful sounds to explore.
Even more significantly, he loaned me an album of contemporary Christian music. It was an LP (I know, I’m an old guy) recorded by Dion, of “Dion and the Belmonts” fame. Dion had some top-40 hits in the sixties and seventies with songs like “Runaround Sue” and “Abraham, Martin and John.” But later Dion became a Christian and began to record Christian music. His music was a revelation to me. He sang the Gospel, clear and true, but in his own style, with guitar, bass, drums, and a Hammond B-3 organ. It was fantastic.
Two of his songs really resonated with me. I learned them, and I have been singing those two songs for almost forty years now. I’ve sung them so long that for a while my daughter thought they were my songs. I put a cassette of these songs in our car’s tape player (I know, I’m an old guy…but at least I never had an 8-track player). When the music started, my young daughter was shocked. She said, “Daddy! He’s singing your songs!” And I had to explain to her that, no, actually I was singing his songs.
One of the songs is an up-tempo tune called “The Best”, and in the chorus Dion sings:
“The best thing I can tell you is God loves you,
I can say it from my heart and know it’s true.
The best thing I can tell you is God loves you,
And He sent His only Son as living proof.”
But my favorite of the two is called “Center of My Life.” It’s a gentler, more acoustic-oriented tune. In this chorus, Dion makes this declaration to Jesus:
“I love my father and mother; I love my sisters and brothers;
But when the seasons have turned, You are the center of my life, of my life!
I love the poet and preacher; love the child and the teacher;
But when it all comes around, You are the center of my life.”
I love both of these songs, but something about the words to “Center of My Life” really resonates with me.
Living through the seasons of life brings emphasis on different relationships: your father and mother, your sisters and brothers (if you have any) then your wife or husband, and the children that so often follow. Then your parents grow old and pass away. Your children grow up and move out. They marry, have children of their own, and suddenly you’re a grandparent. And even as you experience the richness and blessings of each of those seasons of life, you also experience the inevitable challenges, heartbreaks, and losses. Everything changes. Nothing remains the same, not even the image in your mirror. What in the world do you hold on to?
Dion sings the answer. Or rather, Dion sings to the Answer, the one Person who doesn’t change, and the one Person you can hold on to in each season of life: Jesus. Make Him the center of your life.
Trying to make others the center of your life really puts unfair pressure on them. Your father or your mother can’t see you through all the seasons of life. Under normal circumstances, they won’t even be there for the final part of your life.
Your kids can’t be the center of your life. You try to make them that and you find out they have minds of their own, and maybe they don’t like “clingy” parents, anyway. They can’t fill your emotional and spiritual needs. And in the usual course of events, they leave home and go start families of their own.
Hopefully you have a good marriage, but your wife or your husband, as good as they might be, can’t be the center of your life. And if you have a bad marriage or a bad husband or wife, you already know this. But even good and honorable spouses can’t fill that empty place inside of you.
Only Jesus can.
Dion found all this out the hard way. In another of his songs, called “Souvenirs”, he sings:
“Clean out the attic, pour out the beers; proclaim a garage sale for my old souvenirs.
Throw out those albums and diaries of time; I won’t be needing my whiskey and wine.
A lonely man came into the light; the burdens of my heart, they rolled out of sight.
Faith has replaced all those things I thought right;
A lonely man talked with his God tonight.”
Powerful, honest words from a man who tried to make so many other things the center of his life. But he found out in the end, only Jesus belongs there.
Unfortunately, the albums these songs are on are unavailable right now, for some reason. Lots of Dion’s other Gospel music is available, but not these songs. I hope that changes sometime soon. I have them on CD, but even the CD is now out of print. (I know; I’m an old guy.) I’d love for this music to be made available on iTunes or some other digital platform.
In the meantime, I’m still singing them, whenever I get a chance to sing and play at the odd cookout, weenie roast or bar-mitzvah. I’ve lived through some seasons in my life, too, and I’ve seen it all come around. And God willing, I still will, for a while yet. But whatever seasons I live through, and whatever comes around, I’ve found Dion was right: Jesus needs to be the center of my life.
And yours, too.
“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” (1 Peter 3:15)
Soli Deo Gloria!