Everyday Yana Jenay

The Miseducation Series


The Miseducation of James Fortune:

"I Forgive Me"

They say all good things must come to an end. And here we are at the end of The Miseducation of Music Series. I really can’t believe I've kept up with this blog for 3 months! Thanks to those of you that left a comment, clicked the like button, or even texted me personally to say, “Guuurrrrlll, I’m feelin’ this blog thing you doing.” It means a lot.  

I hope you have not only enjoyed this series, but that it has also caused you to think deeply about the messages we interact with daily through song and other forms of media. I pray we all get better at determining whether or not something that sounds good is actually good. That’s really what’s at the heart of this series and this blog. My goal is to tell the story of the triune God in such a way that causes people to reject false narratives.

False narratives like this one - "Forgive yourself." This one gets under my skin and though it doesn’t cause me to roll my eyes, I does cause me to use this emoji, 🤦🏾‍♀️, a 💯times over.

After his personal indiscretions were exposed publicly, James Fortune wrote an album to himself called “Dear Future Me." One of the first singles to hit the radio from this album was an emotional ballet, "I Forgive Me." You can literally feel the anguish of a person haunted by their guilt and shame as the choir shouts out, “I Forgive Me!”

Though the verses of this song are filled with the truths of the gospel, the chorus deviates from how Scripture teaches us to address our guilt and shame. In Scripture, we never read of a man or a woman seeking to forgive themselves. Instead, in Scripture we find the stories of men and women crying out to a holy God for forgiveness.

So, where does this idea of forgiving oneself come from?

In the times that I have failed (like really really screwed up), I literally have a physical response. Guilt builds up in my throat. My whole body begins to feel heavy. I avoid looking at people as a way to hide shame within my eyes. When feelings of guilt and shame overwhelm my soul in this way, they also begin to construct an identity for me that tells me…

“Yana, you’re no good.”

“You’ll never get it together.”

“All you do is bring everybody down.”

“Nobody like fo’real fo’real likes you.”

Yeah, guilt and shame are mean. They’re like the evil sisters in Cinderella. They’ll have you believing all kinds of things that aren't true about yourself. And I think because on some level we know the identity these evil sisters construct for us is untrue, we start to recognize that the way we view of ourselves is the problem. However, this epiphany can lead a person to the unbiblical conclusion that they just need to forgive themselves.

Beloved, the remedy to our guilt and shame is not to enter into the process of forgiving ourselves. The remedy to our guilt and shame is to agree with God’s declaration over us.

Scripture teaches us that God is the judge concerning sin and that all who seek refuge in His Son’s work on the cross will be declared righteous by Him. When we enter into a process of trying to forgive ourselves, we are removing God from His place as judge and putting ourselves there. But homie, you’re a harsher judge! Lay down this trick of false humility of trying to forgive yourself. Instead, accept God’s declaration over you as being made right with Him through Christ. Agree with Him. For who can stand against God’s declaration? Who can protest His Word? Not Satan. And friend, not even you.

Near the end of this song, Fortune echoes this  sentiment by calling his listeners out of their guilt and shame on the bases that God has already forgiven them. The task for us then is to live as those who have been forgiven. We'll pick up here next time as we start a new series called "Living" with a picture that helped me to grasp what "Living Forgiven" looks like.

J and B.jpg

The Half Education of Jay-Z: Kill Jay-Z

When I first heard "4:44," I was like, “Yes! Jay-Z is back! Finally!!!” From the first track ’til the last, I was captivated by his no-nonsense humor and honest self-reflection.

Jay-Z opens up his album with a song called, "Kill Jay-Z." It’s like he knows that before he can get into the album, he has to address his infidelity to the incomparable Queen B, Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter.

So, after a long period of silence, Jay-Z speaks. However, his words aren’t addressed to us or even to Beyonce. Instead, he addresses his own soul and calls himself to die.

He calls himself to die to his need for approval…

Kill Jay Z, They’ll never love you
You’ll never be enough, let’s just keep it real, Jay-Z

He calls himself to die to self-preservation, aka “his tough guy armor”...

You had no father, you had the armor
But you gotta daughter, gotta get softer
Die, Jay-Z

He calls himself to die to the “ugh” of his soul that led to his infidelity…

You almost went Eric Benet
Let the baddest girl in the world get away
I don’t even know what to say
(Homie), never go Eric Benet*

In the end, he concludes...

Nah, Jay-Z
Bye, Jay-Z

By the end of this song, Jay-Z had me all in my feelings considering my own brokenness and the ways I, too, need to die to the approval of others, self-preservation, and the “ugh” of my soul that causes me to act out and seek comfort in old habits.

I love this song. It’s a human song. It’s a song about brokenness.

However, it kind of leaves you hanging. It’s a half-education. Though Jay-Z models for us how to confess one’s shortcomings, he fails to leave us with a pathway towards change. Kill Jay-Z is a confession devoid of hope for change, a half-education.

After his indiscretions with Bathsheba that lead to an unexpected pregnancy and murdering Bathsheba's husband to cover up his actions, King David wrote a similar song, Psalms 51. However, his words were not addressed to himself, his words were addressed to God.  While Jay-Z had a “man in the mirror” moment, David had a “come to Jesus” moment. And though we, like Jay-Z, need to do the heavy lifting of honest self-evaluation, David models the posture we should take after looking so deeply into the mirror.

David appeals to God for forgiveness and cleansing from his sin on the basis of God's character...

Be gracious to me, God, according to your faithful love;
According to your abundant compassion,
Blot out my rebellion.
Completely wash away my guilt
And cleanse me from my sin. (Ps. 51:1-2)

David makes God the sole judge over his life...

Against you – you alone – I have sinned
and done evil in your sight.
So you are right when you pass sentence;
You are blameless when you judge. (Ps. 51:4)

David asks for a new heart...

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps. 51:10)

David is confident in God’s grace towards humble and broken people...

The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
You will not despise a broken and humble heart, God. (Ps 51:17)

Now, to be real, this post has been real difficult for me. I mean, you might of noticed that two Monday’s have past since my last post, but I’m thankful. The delay has been for my good.

When I selected this song to be apart of the Miseducation of Music series, I was very critical of Jay-Z. But as I worked on this piece, I discovered that I am Jay-Z.  When I sin, I have a pattern of being more disappointed and frustrated in myself for falling short of my own expectations, instead of falling short before the Lord, who has loved me with an everlasting love. I have a tendency to set myself up as the judge.

Yana, you know better. Stop seeking the approval of others.

Yana, you gotta stop taking your frustrations out on defenseless strangers.

Yana, you’re identity is supposed to be in Christ. Duuuhhhh. 🙄

But, God is the judge. And, praise God, He ain’t me! He’s a gracious judge who doesn’t meet me with condemnation, but with faithful love, compassion, and help. Though He calls me to die to myself, He doesn’t stop there. He forgives. He cleanses. He gives a new heart to those who are honest and broken before Him. He provides us with hope for real life change.

So beloved, don’t go staring too long in the mirror examining your imperfections before lifting your eyes to the One who desire to meet you with compassion, relentless love, and help.