“The angel of love was upon me,” he says. Oh, hello.
“And Lord, I felt so small.” Well, yes, you would. We do. I have.
“The legs beneath me weakened. I began to crawl. Confused and contented, I slithered around,” he says, and I can see the people in Hatfield Christian Church, the megachurch I would occasionally attend as a young Christian. Slain in the Spirit, passed out, laughing, overcome by emotion.
“The angel of love was upon me,” he says again and already I am convinced that he’s talking about the Spirit. Can he be? He says: “I felt my tongue move in my mouth and I began to speak a strange kind of language I don’t understand,” and I remember standing at the back, willing myself to speak in tongues:
No. The tension and stress of wanting it badly, but being unable to let go enough: teetering on the sharp edge between fighting and faking it. I never did manage to manifest the “babbling fountain I couldn’t have planned.” And, despite myself, I’m a little weirded out that he has.
‘He’ is Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode, a band so big in the 80s I’m pretty sure an older cousin of mine threatened to kill herself if she could not go to one of their concerts. Depeche Mode gave us Personal Jesus, which never felt reverential, Black Celebration and Blasphemous Rumours, which suggested God “has a sick sense of humour, and when I die, I expect to find him laughing.” And now they’re drawing my attention to my late lack of spiritual fervour. Well, this is a switch.
The “angel of love” now makes him feel “high”. He rhymes it with “sky”. Well at least I’ve been there, in prayer, feeling lifted from my body, in my body, the sense of being in touch with a power nothing like electricity and yet having everything in common. He says: “A radiant rainbow was following me around.” He says: “I could see and taste sound.” Steady on, Jimi Hendrix. But, then, who am I to judge? A non-glossolalia-experiencing chump who can only relate to the religious ecstasy I assume he’s describing, through my memories.
But I know that feeling. Buzzing. Like you’re vibrating minutely and infinitely fast, like you are only pretending not to float. I felt that after I was baptised, when the preacher had explained that there was nothing special in those waters, that this was a symbol and nothing more. Rubbish. I came up out of that water higher than I have ever been.
He moves on to baptism, too: “I waded into the water, I was bathed, I was drowned,” he says. “Like the sinners before me, I knelt down on the ground.” I know. Not terribly specific to Christianity. Said no Christian listening to this song ever.
And the whole way through the song, he keeps repeating: “Oh, leave me here for evermore. I’ve found the peace I’ve been searching for.” Except I don’t feel like I have.
I know we’re not meant to say that. Getting saved, becoming Christians – it doesn’t solve all our problems, we’re fond of saying, but there’s always the understanding that it gives you something.
You know, that stuff we say: a purpose, a meaning to life, that peace. I remember it well – a sense of certainty about almost everything and that feeling of being in control because my God is in control. I feel it, if I am honest, very little these days. Of course, I can give you the right answers if questioned. But if we’re operating a Policy of Truth (see what I did there? Yes? You are old) I often have no idea. I know the fundamentals are true. I do. I just feel them so much less than I used to. I miss them. But not enough to fight for them. I’m sure Richard Rohr would approve. Perhaps so would Brian McLaren. But that’s hardly comforting. I mean, they love everybody.
I guess the fact I’m so excited to discover this song (Angel, from the new album, Delta Machine) means I still know, still feel, still believe in God.
And listening to this song, recognising that spiritual stuff makes me want to experience God more. To hear Him in church. To feel Him in worship. To remember Him as I decide who I live for in all my little daily choices. Is this a regression into what Rohr calls the first half of life? Or the Holy Spirit going: “Dude, wake up…” You’re asking me? I have religious experiences with comeback albums from icons of the 80s.
Here is what I know: Jesus is God and God is good, even if He is not currently making us feel good. Being a Christian is not about being lost and then finding your way. It’s not that kind of lost. As Gore/Gahan say(s) earlier in the song: “I was lost, I was found.” We get found. By Him.
Perhaps the answer to all this conviction-slash-nostalgia is to cling to the knowledge that God is in control, and to relinquish the thoughts and feelings that revolve around our own importance.
I’m going to go listen to some 80s music. I’ll ask the “angel of love” to come with me.
Image of Depeche Mode from their website.