My kids have recently discovered the classic rock radio station here in Chicago. Since I was their age in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it has been fun for me to watch them discover some of the musicians and groups from my youth.
While I was growing up, I loved listening to Journey, Billy Joel, and (though I don’t like to admit it much now) Air Supply. They often have the radio on during the day while they are playing and sometimes when they are going to bed at night. So I have gotten to hear a good deal of the selection that station plays.
Every once in a while, one particular song will come up in the rotation, and it catches my ear. That song is “Surrender,” by a band called Cheap Trick. If you know the song, you probably recall that it’s the one with the chorus that says, “Mommy’s all right; Daddy’s all right. . . . They just seem a little weird.”
The song is about different generations misunderstanding each other, with each side believing they are actually the wise ones in the family.
It is interesting to revisit that song now and hear it not only from the perspective of a child, but also as a parent—in particular, one who is in recovery from trauma and trying hard not to pass along that trauma to his kids. My favorite part of the song, though, comes at the very end. The chorus of “Mommy’s all right; Daddy’s all right” becomes a repeating chant. After a moment, the chant includes the names of the band members, again with the affirmation that they are all right. Finally, the chant builds to a crescendo, with the singing voices proclaiming—even shouting—over and over, “We’re all all right; we’re all all right.” It might sound strange, but that part of the song always chokes me up a bit.
A Saint and a Rock Band
Way back in the 14th century, the great mystic Julian of Norwich wrote a work called The Revelations of Divine Love. In the 27th chapter, Julian meditates on the effects of sin, which causes us endless pain and suffering. Strangely, however, throughout the chapter, Julian returns to this hopeful refrain: “It behooved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
When I listen to the end of that Cheap Trick song, I hear that same hope. In the fallen world in which we live, we are beset with perpetual misunderstandings and often deep, painful separations. We look at those to whom we should be the closest, and we think they seem a little weird.
But into this confusion and pain walk Cheap Trick and Julian of Norwich, each reminding us that sin and separation do not have the last word. Instead, “we’re all all right; we’re all all right, and all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
I believe these words are pointing us to the kingdom of God. I hear in them the echo of the words of our Lord, when he chose to quote the prophetic vision of Isaiah: “He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God; to comfort all who mourn” (61:1–2).
I know that, in the days ahead, there will be times when my children and I will misunderstand each other. We will look across the room and feel the separation of the generations between us. Even when we do our best, we will think the other is a little weird. But I live in that promise that stretches from Isaiah to Jesus to Julian to Cheap Trick, and to my family through the radio: All shall be well, and in the end, with God’s grace, we’ll all be all right.