By Dave Andrusko
As the oldest of seven children and the father of four, I’m an easy sell for stories of moms and dads staring medical adversity straight in the face. Enter Mark Schultz’s “What it Means to be Loved,” a song that was part of his 2009 “Come Alive” album but which I ran across this morning for the first time.
On his webpage Mark writes that “What It Means to Be Loved” is “the only song I’ve ever played in concert that received a standing ovation before the end of the first chorus was over.” I can understand why. In a 4:12 second-long song, I was choking up at 1:17 seconds in.
He tells us that the song “basically wrote itself.” Its genesis was a story his wife, Kate, told him about a family she’d worked with at the hospital.
“The mother was expecting a child and was told that tests revealed health issues that meant the baby probably wouldn’t live long after birth,” Mark wrote. “Although the doctors suggested terminating the pregnancy, the mother decided she would love the child as long as she could. I took those emotions and that unselfish commitment and poured them into the ‘What It Means to be Loved.’”
It is a powerful, powerful song about faithfulness when every cell in your body is shouting, “Why?” and “Get me out of this!”
Mark does a splendid job of almost instantaneously setting the stage, of helping us appreciate the anticipation first-time parents (in particular) feel as they near the birth of their child. Similarly, we sense their fear when the doctor says “I need to see you, And could you come in soon.”
The song itself does not explicitly talk about the “option” of abortion. But when “The tests that said our baby may not live to be a year,” the husband asks his wife, “What do you want to do?”
I want to give her the world
I want to hold her hand
I want to be her mom for as long as I can
And I want to live every moment until that day comes
I want to show her what it means to be loved
Mark writes, “ And I knew as soon as I hit this chorus and tears were running down my face that this is one I’m going to be playing for a long time….To me, what the song says is that we as Christians are called to love. If that means loving a baby that’s going to be here for 7 minutes or 70 years, it doesn’t make any difference, you just wrap your arms around them and pour yourself into them.”
The real-life afterword, so to speak, began when Kate said to Mark
“Since you’re adopted I think we should adopt kids too.” I said, “Ok that’s fine.” She said, “I think we should adopt kids maybe with special needs.” And I said, “Ok, that seems like a tall order.” She continued, “Maybe someday we adopt kids with special needs that the doctor only knows they’re going to live for a year or two.” I responded, “Honey, why would we do that?” And my wife said, “Because before they go to heaven, I want them to know what a great Christmas is like and I want them to know what a great birthday is like and let them know that they were loved well before they get to heaven and realize that love. I want them to know that they were loved here on earth and celebrate them here.”
That’s the kind of wife I’m married to. These are the kinds of songs that come out of those stories. It’s a special song and I’m grateful for all the people who’ve walked through loving unconditionally. I hope the song means as much to folks as it does to me.
I just hope after you listen to “What it Means to be Loved, “it means as much to you as it does to me. www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrXmHaBP-A4.
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