The Gospel According to Marvin Gaye

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby
Ain’t nothing like the real thing.

Oh honey, I got your picture hangin’ on the wall,
But it can’t see or come to me when I call your name.
I realize it’s just a picture inside a frame.

Ooh, I read your letters when you’re not near me,
But they don’t move me, and they don’t groove me like when I hear
Your sweet voice whispering in my ear.

I played my game, a fantasy.
I pretend, but I know in reality,
I need the shelter of your arms to comfort me.

No other sound is quite the same as your name
No touch can do half as much to make me feel better.

Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Marvin Gaye

I know, I’m sorry. You now have that tune circling around in your head. But every time I tried to write this ‘Love’ post it kept humming in my head and I have learned that I must respect the *earworm!

Song lyrics often remind me how God has woven himself through my life – my everyday, ordinary life – my sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life (Romans 12:1-2 MSG).

I can’t sing a recognizable note nor read one on a score. But the words. Oh, the words of a beautiful song and their mystical ways of reminding me of my God, of his love, of his faithfulness.

...that picture hangin’ on the wall, that can’t seem to come to me when I call…
like when I hear your sweet voice whispering in my ear…

These lines remind me of times when God seemed far off, when he seemed out of earshot; times when Jesus seemed to be just the picture from my Sunday School youth of the bearded man with the kind smile in the carved wooden frame hangin’ on the wall.

I want, I need, I thirst for, more than the picture. I want to be close enough to hear his sweet voice. I don’t need an actual audible (although I have certainly prayed for that a time or two or a thousand!). But I find that when I put effort and intentionality to my prayer life, I often sense his whisper. (1 Kings 19:12)

Yes, the very whisper of my God.

…I played my game, a fantasy. I pretend but I know in reality, I need the shelter of your arms to comfort me…

I certainly have that pretend fantasy thang down right well. I know how to ‘act Christian’ and how to spout proper ‘Christianese.’ I can certainly play the good-Christian game.

But in reality I need the real thing.

I need to draw near to God, not act like I’m already there. Just staring at that framed picture on the wall, or carrying my Bible around, or reciting well-rehearsed one-liners of faith just ain’t enough. I need the shelter of his arms. (Psalm 46:1-3)

…no other name is quite the same as your name…

I am learning that a name is not just a word when it comes to my heavenly Father.  We don’t have to search for the ‘right’ words when we are wanting him – just say my name, say my name (Beyoncé are you calling out to me?). For God’s name is a strong tower that we can run to and be safe. (Proverbs 18:10).

His very name is our safety.

I know that Marvin wrote this as a sweet love song to another human being. It’s certainly not in any church hymnal (but if you find a church that has it, let me know, I’ll be there on Sunday morning bright and early!).

Yet isn’t a relationship with Jesus the sweetest of love songs? So unlike me in the mushiness of that thought, but I thirst for more of it every day!

If you believe that God is for and through and in every nook and cranny of your life then you can find Him everywhere (Romans 11:36). In song lyrics like these, or movies (Wonder Woman and Star Wars), or novels (Harry Potter and Tales of Narnia!) or a color-filled sunset, or a bird’s song, or a child’s giggle, or even in a bubbling pot of soup.

I believe that God infiltrates our world all over the place. Everywhere. If we just expectantly watch and listen for it.

Marvin’s words resound for the ages: There just truly and completely ain’t nothing like the real thing.

Now I gotta go. I hear Ain’t No Mountain High Enough humming in the background. I feel an *earworm coming on!


*earworm – a catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person’s mind

Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Diane Karchner
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  1. Sarah Robinson on December 4, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    You would enjoy our praise team at church. They often play contemporary love songs for the opening set that could do easily be directed at our Jesus. When His love defines us, we can’t help but relate the best lyrics and sing them back to Him.

    • Diane on December 4, 2017 at 4:05 PM

      Sarah – I want to come to your church to hear that. Too bad so many count on the beauty of a love song to apply only to a human’s love which we all know can be temporary and rocky…ain’t nothing like the real thing.

  2. Gretchen Hanna on December 20, 2017 at 2:56 PM

    Love “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” too!
    He IS the real deal. Realizing more and more how helpless and lost I am without His love for me, and how full and incredible my life is when I lean into his love song for me. Thank you for this.

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