“In Love With Naked Fred”

They say being in love makes idiots of us.  I find the opposite is true.  REAL LOVE gives us nothing if not bright, sometimes blinding, clarity.  We know it when we see it, because it exposes everything—including our deepest, most hidden selves—to the one we love.

I showed up an hour and a half early at a listening party for Fred Hammond’s new CD, “God, Love & Romance.”  Me and, I assume, the couple hundred other people there were staking out “lose-my-mind-up-in-here” territory.  You know how your boy does it—rowdy praise and crazy worship.

Seated sixth row center, coat next to me, hoping folks would take the hint and leave me my elbowroom, I waited for the celebration to begin.  However, when the band didn’t warm up right away, and Fred came out and took a seat in the lone chair on the stage, I realized it would be a different kind of party.

Between talking and taking questions from the now packed room, he played songs from GL&R.  When I Come Home To You, The Proposal, You Are My Love Come True, Easier, Face It All, and others filled up the room.  A seductive jazz trumpet, some funky beats, and a wicked sweet bass played tag with agile vocals that have become a Fred Hammond signature.

I’m used to Fred being real and honest in his divine expression.  His spirit is very much the spirit of David, and more often than not his music has me dancing and singing unselfconsciously before my God, no matter the setting.

What I did not expect was this naked Fred Hammond, exposed and unguarded, talking about his divorce (“I tried.  She tried.  We failed.”), singleness (“I know what it’s like to go out on a first date, and another first date, and ANOTHER first date…”), and companionship (“…It’s nice to have somebody you want to come home to.  It’s all right to hang out with the fellas sometimes, but it’s good when a man wants to come home…”).

Most surprising to me though was how exposed I felt taking in his conversation and listening to the CD lyrics.

I don’t want to move too fast

Is it all right to hold her hand

It’s much too soon to love again

But it’s easier than being alone

Easier than crying

Crying alone…

All of Fred’s sharing seemed to strip away my own veneer.  His yearning uncovered my own.  His desire for marriage made mine more conspicuous to me.  His poetry beat in my chest.

My heart, you can have it.

My world, come live in it. 

Your touch, let me feel it.

Your love, girl, I need it…

My God, come on let’s serve Him.

One heart, serve Him together.

My life, come on let’s share it.

Have faith, ‘cause we can make it

The more I listened, the harder it was to hear, until finally, I put my head down and asked what I had not asked—been too afraid to ask—for a very long time.

Where is he, Lord?  Where is the man who would say this to me?

It is no wonder that we don’t allow our deepest desires to visit our conscious mind too often.  They rend the heart on their way to the surface when, in our humanity, we entertain the awful possibility that they may not come to pass.  In those moments, only God’s ear can hearken to our anguished whispers.  Only His eyes can see our fear without condemning it or patronizing us.  Only His heart is tender enough to soak up a tear or hold a fragile dream without crushing it.

Knowing this, I wondered why God would bring me to such a public place to be so vulnerable?  There was nowhere to go with my rawness.  There was nothing for me to do in this crowd but listen…

Darling you, you are my love come true, baby

Nobody else will do

You are the one that I have longed for in my dreams…

Then I heard it.  His voice was my voice.  Without a wife, without the life he desires in his hands, Fred Hammond sang, and not just for himself.  He sang for all who love, and for all who want to love and be loved.

Looking around the room, I saw men and women like me, exposed and vulnerable.  I saw something else.  Freedom.

To be naked and unashamed before Him and with each other.  This was God’s original plan for us.  Despite our best efforts to cover up and move through this life protecting ourselves, that plan has not changed.

When someone, certain of God’s love and hopeful in His promises, has the courage to show himself (or herself) to others, we who see are free to bring our collective longing to the surface and trust that same God.

Single, married, waiting or weary, we learn that because we are God’s, being IN LOVE is an option every day.

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