In 1994 I took my own money and purchased my first cassette tape. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had just released their greatest hits in November of 1993, and with money in hand, I was ready for my own copy. For several years prior to 1994, I had drunk Tom’s lyrical elixir from the radio, and his music had spared me from the ills of 90’s pop music.
I was brokenhearted on October 2nd when news of Tom’s death filled the airwaves and pages of every network. I had spent hours with him. His music was the soundtrack for so many of my memories from my teenage years. Music has always been a force in my life, and several of Tom’s songs had gripped me. For several days following his death, the only music I listened to was his, and a bit teary-eyed, I watched as VH1 Classic ran his music videos and concert footage. I figured I owed him at least that much loyalty. Tom was getting much-deserved airplay during those days following his death, and I was listening – with my ears and with my heart. And as he has always had a knack for doing, his words caught me again.
I had heard “Learning to Fly,” one of Petty’s greatest hits, at least a million times, but this time one particular line lodged itself in my psyche: “Some say life will beat you down, break your heart, steal your crown.” Maybe this line hooked me this time unlike any other time before because I now have thirty-eight years of experience in trying to figure life out – almost four decades of taking its bumps and bruises, of living with the uncertainty of its unknowns, and of enduring a few broken hearts along the way. There’s so much truth in this line that resonates with my soul; however, there is one completely false clause included in this lyric – your crown is not in danger of being stolen.
In Psalm 8, David writes, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (v. 3-5). David is speaking of humans being crowned by God with glory and honor. This crown is God-given, God-protected. So, what does this mean?
This means that no matter the amount of “life” you have experienced (i.e. – mistakes you’ve made, hearts you’ve broken, chaos you’ve raised, peace you’ve wrecked, scars you’ve covered, etc.), God, and God alone, declares, “You are dignified royalty because I say so.” The world, the demons of hell, and sometimes our own inner-demons do attempt to beat us down, and sometimes they successfully break our hearts, but God has “crowned” you “with glory and honor,” and your life-experience cannot steal what God has given.
Sometimes our past and our present seem to convince us that we’re too far gone to love or to be loved. Your crown is your reminder that that just isn’t true. Why is God “mindful” of man? Because he loves you. He doesn’t love a little; he loves so much that he put it in writing in Psalm 8, and about a thousand years later, God sacrificed his son to communicate the vastness of that love for his people. You are God’s crowning achievement. You have dignity (glory and honor) because God loves you. Even those who do not trust in Christ have honor and dignity and glory because God made them, and those who do not trust Christ may not enjoy the fullness of their crown, but that does not take away their God-given dignity as His creature. Our God-given honor and glory is realized in a greater way when we trust him, believe him, and obey him (this is easier to write and read than it is to believe and live). We’re often heartbroken over the mistakes that we have made, but no mistake is too great to stop God’s love for his people. Your crown is protected by the one who makes the moon and stars with his fingers; life has no chance to steal your crown from hands like that.
I appreciate Tom’s honest take on life, but life has no real power with which to steal your crown. So, with your beaten life and your broken heart, stand up, straighten your crown, and embrace the hand that made the heavens because that is the hand of the eternal king, and he loves you more than you could ever know, and regardless of your mess, he’ll hold your hand for an infinity of days.