The third song on Wake Up Sleepy Heaven, the new album from my rap duo Holy Smokes, is Sleepy Heaven (Pt. 1). The two parts of Sleepy Heaven are meant to act as interludes but still push the concept of Sleepy Heaven further.
Part 1 comes from the perspective of a disillusioned sinner. He is waging a war against his demons, but when he turns to the religious for guidance, they are busy hiding their sins and putting on a nice face for the public. The religious person is described with the characteristics of a politician, someone who “tries to build the public’s trust” but who, at the end of his life, “might tell you what he covered up.”
The sinner, upon seeing the way religious people hide their own sins, is left with even more questions than answers. He cannot help himself, fake Christians cannot help him, and he begins to question whether even God can help him.
I have seen this, and felt this, a lot in my life. So many of us Christians keep our sins to ourselves so that we can look like good people instead of real people, and we end up leaving more people lonely. We deny that we struggle time and again, causing a chain reaction of private suffering. We wear masks and forget that caring for people means sharing our trials with others so that we can share in our triumphs together. It’s hard to be found when we can’t admit that we’re lost.
Charles Bukowski once wrote in a poem, “the thing about church–you can’t change a mask.” Unfortunately, too often we think that the term ‘Christian’ is synonymous with saint rather than sinner. In part I blame this on the society we live in, where the American culture tells us not to wear our emotions too prominently for fear of looking vulnerable. At the end of the song, the narrator wonders when Christians started worshiping America over God. In a country that subscribes to survival of the fittest, there isn’t much room for admitting weakness. (The idea of America being a hindrance to true faith will come back throughout the album.)
At some point in our lives, we all experience hell on earth. Our stories are filled with suffering, and we all willingly accept that hell happens here. But how many of us acknowledge that heaven might be here too? As I said before, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God wouldn’t come with our careful observation because the kingdom of God is inside us (Luke 17:20-21). What if we removed our masks and showed people our scars? Wouldn’t we be closer to heaven knowing that others are suffering too? You can’t make it through hell if you don’t admit that you’re in it. If we want to bring heaven to people, we need to let them know we have been through our own personal hells, and are still fighting our demons despite our beliefs. No one relates to the person without blemish. Waking up heaven inside of us and inside of others is going to require a lot more vulnerability and honesty than we’ve been willing to give.
Wake up sleepyhead, sleepyhead, sleepy heaven
I try to stay awake but my eyes are feeling heavy
and this life is unsteady
and my friends, they all forget me
My demons grip my neck
I’m just trying to get a grip on me
I feel your hand slip on me
I find my sin and its whole army
line up at attention
state your name
and state your business
Are you all here to kill me?
Is this the real me?
Can you feel me?
I was screaming at the sky to take me
but lately I’ve been thinking
if God makes us from up above
does he drop us just to shake us?
Or if we spend our days in search of love
do most of just find more lust?
We crave a touch
I’ve said too much
No good man ever states his sins
He keeps them in
he locks them up
he tries to build the public’s trust
and at the end
(after some good luck)
he might tell you what he covered up
while the rest of us are shamed to say
that our mistakes they smother us
I’m trying to say that I –ed up
I wonder if God still loves us
us stutterers and vagabonds
We wander through youth then wander on
with nothing new under the sun
We’d bow to the Son
but he’s better than us
In God We Trust
but Dear God,
we must insist that you trust us
with trust funds
and some hot blondes
and these big homes
just like pop songs
Will Pop and Mom be proud of me
if trials are of what I sing?
If they sing “My Country Tis of Thee”
and I sing, “that don’t mean much to me”?
Excuse me, please
for cursing the land of too much blessing
too much dressing on Thanksgiving
thankful for our gluttony
thankful for the greed on Wall Street
thankful for the sluts on TV
thankful for this country:
red, white, and blue
but mostly green
Smoke clouds around
What could this mean?
We got trapped inside our screens
The earth fast asleep
don’t wake me
steeper into this stupor
Sleepy in, sleepy heaven
the worthless aren’t waiting
Sleep in, sleepy heaven
the worthless aren’t waiting