In 1973, Sandy Chapin wrote a poem about the disconnect in the relationship between her ex-husband James Cashmore, and his father, a New York City politician. A year later, after initially discounting it, her husband Harry Chapin witnessed the birth of his son. Inspired by the experience and in light of his wife’s poem, he wrote the now-famous song “Cat’s In The Cradle.”
After writing the ballad, he commented, “Frankly, this song scares me to death.”
Cat’s In The Cradle is written from a son’s perspective about his father who is too busy to spend time with him. Despite his many requests to join him in different childhood activities, his father continues to respond with little more than vague promises of spending time together in the future. Nevertheless, the son continues to admire him, promising that someday “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.”
At the end of the song, the roles are reversed. The father asks his grown-up son to visit, but the son responds that he is now too busy to make time. The father then reflects that they are both alike, saying “my boy was just like me.” The song’s chorus utilizes imagery related to childhood (hence the title, “Cat’s in the cradle”). You can read the lyrics by clicking here.
While other songs like Eve Of Destruction generate more consideration about its worthiness for the title of the Hippie Movement anthem, Cat’s In The Cradle at least deserves honorable mention. That song embodies the life trajectory of far too many Baby Boomers (and their kids!).
Every time I read the lyrics or listen to the song, my heart physically hurts. Perhaps it hits too close to home on a number of different levels. I see myself in the song as a son and a father. But I also relate to this song as a child of God. Fortunately, God always, always, always makes time for us.
Ironically, Chapin was either an agnostic or an atheist. In my walk with God, I so easily live as a functional agnostic, behaving as if God doesn’t exist. Even as a pastor and Christian writer.
The Purpose Of Lent Is To Make Room For God
Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent. The purpose of Lent isn’t to punish ourselves for our sins over the previous 12 months. The purpose of Lent is to reflect on how we live as functional agnostics, and then make room for God.
To a great extent, observing Lent is the attempt to avoid the pitfalls of this song. How often do we give God the leftovers of our hearts and priorities? Then at the end of our lives, we look back with great regret over the many missed opportunities.
Last month, I realized that I was giving God my leftovers. Despite my many “spiritual” activities, my soul was overwhelmed with a hunger far deeper than the richest food could ever satisfy. I was becoming the anti-hero of Cat’s In The Cradle. So, I decided to begin my Lenten fast five weeks early. My focus isn’t mortifying my flesh–it’s creating room for God.
So I invite you to join me on this journey.
How do you make room for God? Please share it with us!
If you’d like to see a brief, interesting video about Lent, click on the video below.
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s making room for God by turning off the sports talk and classic rock when he drives. Instead, he’s driving in silence or listening to worship music.