A Stripper, A Rapper, and the Gospel

(This post was originally published on lilfytr.blogspot.com on January 21, 2016 under the title “‘An Unexpected Gospel Analogy.” This re-post has been edited and updated from the original.)

As a hopefully-future pastor-/preacher-in-training, i really enjoy taking random things and turning them into a way to proclaim the gospel. Whether it’s an eraser of a pencil: we write our sins, God flips it and erases them; or a cup of coffee: when it’s internalized, it awakes you to your situation; or a napkin: they’re typically white (Jesus is pure) and they clean up our messes (Jesus sure does for us). Regardless of the item, there is usually some way to tie it to Christ and the gospel.

They will all ultimately fall short, but since Christ wants to be found, He doesn’t make it hard to find Him. I would like to demonstrate this in some depth through the song “How to Love” by Lil Wayne, off his album Tha Carter IV:

The lyrics have been copied below, and bold type represents the hook (chorus, refrain, whatever) to differentiate it from the other sections. Also, any profanity has been replaced with a weaker word within [brackets].

You had a lot of crooks try’na steal your heart
Never really had luck, couldn’t never figure out
How to love (how to love)
How to love (how to love)
Mm you had a lot of moments that didn’t last forever
Now you in the corner try’na put it together
How to love (how to love)
How to love (how to love)

Mm for a second you were here, now you over there
It’s hard not to stare, the way you moving your body
Like you never had a love (had a love)
Never had love (had a love)

When you was just a youngin’, your looks were so precious
But now your grown up, so fly it’s like a blessing
But you, can’t have a man look at you for five seconds
Without you being insecure
You never credit yourself so when you got older
It’s seems like you came back ten times over
Now you’re sitting here in this [dang] corner
Looking through all your thoughts and looking over your shoulder

 Hook

Mm for a second you were here, now you over there
It’s hard not to stare, the way you moving your body
Like you never had a love (had a love)
How to love (how to love)

Ooh, you had a lot of dreams that transform to visions
The fact that you saw the world affected all your decisions
But it wasn’t your fault, wasn’t in your intentions
To be the one here talking to me, be the one listening
But I admire your poppin’ bottles and dippin’
Just as much as you admire bartending and strippin’
Baby, so don’t be mad, nobody else trippin’
You see a lot of crooks and the crooks still crook

Hook

Ooh, see I just want you to know (You to know)
That you deserve the best
You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful
Yeah, and I want you to know
You’re far from the usual, far from the usual

Hook 2x

In order to properly dissect this song to see the gospel beneath it, we need to look at three different portions: first, the hook; second, the verses; and third, the bridge.

The hook reads as follows:

You had a lot of crooks try’na steal your heart
Never really had luck, couldn’t never figure out
How to love (how to love)
How to love (how to love)
Mm you had a lot of moments that didn’t last forever
Now you in the corner try’na put it together
How to love (how to love)
How to love (how to love)

 The first thing to recognize, is that to get the most out of this song, we have to get past our fears and concede that for the allegory being shared, Wayne is speaking as if he played a character who is God (i know it’s a hard bridge to cross, but it makes this song mean a whole lot more if we can do this). With this understanding, the meaning is relatively clear in the hook.

We are seduced by everything in this world. Nothing is not trying to earn our time and affections. However, none of those things satisfy in the end. We think they contain love, fulfillment, happiness, but we are sadly disappointed every time. The things we think will satisfy us for eternity are fleeting, and leave us with more questions and hurts than we really want to admit. It seems our whole lives are a search for love.

“Christ wants to be found; He doesn’t make it hard to find Him.”

This leads to the verses. The first verse reads as follows:

When you was just a youngin’, your looks were so precious
But now your grown up, so fly it’s like a blessing
But you, can’t have a man look at you for five seconds
Without you being insecure
You never credit yourself so when you got older
It’s seems like you came back ten times over
Now you’re sitting here in this [dang] corner
Looking through all your thoughts and looking over your shoulder

The first line could easily be—especially if it was a Christian writing—a reference to Ezekiel 16:6-14 which is itself a parable of Israel’s apostasy from God toward lesser things. This is what we are too prone to do. We take the gifts God has given us and turn them into ways to spurn His glory and grace. The girl that Wayne is singing about in the song has flirted around with many different men—using her looks for whatever she can—and now she only finds worth around another man; they’ve made her insecure, because she finds her worth in them. She knows the cycle, but she doesn’t know how to escape. She questions her thoughts and she questions those around her.

The second verse continues the story. It says:

Ooh, you had a lot of dreams that transform to visions
The fact that you saw the world affected all your decisions
But it wasn’t your fault, wasn’t in your intentions
To be the one here talking to me, be the one listening
But I admire your poppin’ bottles and dippin’
Just as much as you admire bartending and strippin’
Baby, so don’t be mad, nobody else trippin’
You see a lot of crooks and the crooks still crook

This girl had big plans for her life. We all do. Childhood is where we dream big. “I want to be an astronaut,” “I want to be a baseball player,” “I want to be a movie star;” all of these are typical dreams children have for their life. It was never part of our original plan to be in the places we end up. (Example: tell me two years ago i’d move back in with my parents in California in eight months, and i would have laughed in your face.) So when Wayne says she never planned on talking to him, it is analogous to Romans 3:11–no one seeks for God.

Maybe this is a stretch, but i’m interpreting the next two lines, “But I admire your poppin’ bottles and dippin’ / Just as much as you admire bartending and strippin’” to mean he doesn’t admire it and neither does she in reality. He tells her not to be mad about that statement, because crooks will stay crooks, but he is different.

The bridge is where i got the idea for this post. It states:

Ooh, see I just want you to know (You to know)
That you deserve the best
You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful
Yeah, and I want you to know
You’re far from the usual, far from the usual

To me, this sounds an awful lot like Song of Songs 2:2, where the man says to the woman, “Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among the young women” (HCSB). Wayne is letting her know she deserves a lot better, and he is claiming to be able to offer it. He says she is far from a typical girl. He says she makes other girls look like thorns in comparison.

Jesus says the same to each one of us. We have pursued other things. We are trapped in a cycle of looking for love in all the wrong places. The sinful things we do (cf. “the way you moving your body”) prove that we are not finding love in the right place. Jesus ultimately wants us to know that He is the best and if we heed His offer He will give it to us. For those of us who are His, we deserve the best, and He will give it to us. We need not ever go back to poppin’ bottles and strippin’ (drunkenness and sexual sin).

So, hopefully i’ve made a good case that the gospel can be preached even from something as out there as a Lil Wayne song. What will you use today to share Christ with those you know?

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus

Thanks for reading.

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