‘More than the watchmen for the morning’

I recently stumbled across an oddly compelling vignette of reluctant heroism hidden away in a ridiculous 80s rock song. The overwrought lyrics caught my attention because, buried amid the electric guitar and the tacky hair, they actually paint a striking picture of the ugly struggles and ambiguous victories that are part of the sanctification of a sinner among sinners. The song is “Family Man,” the band is Hall & Oates, and I’m pretty sure they don’t realize they are singing about a hero as they describe a “family man” and his encounter with a prostitute.

She had a sulky smile
She took her standard pose
As she presented herself
She had sultry eyes
She made it perfectly plain
That she was his for a price

But he said, leave me alone
I’m a family man
And my bark is much worse
Than my bite
He said, leave me alone
I’m a family man
But if you push me too far
I just might […]

She gave him her look
It would’ve worked
On any other man around
He looked her up and down
She knew he couldn’t decide
If he should hold his ground

But he said leave me alone
I’m a family man
And my bark is much worse
Than my bite
He said leave me alone
I’m a family man
But if you push me too far
I just might

He just might, but he doesn’t. He’s not a very impressive protagonist, as his resistance breaks down near the end of the song and he looks for the temptress, only to discover that she has moved on while he restrained himself. But the fact remains that our fictional family man held back just long enough to be saved, at least for today, from “the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7). The songwriter seems to think less of him for the decision, and the song strikes a note of disappointment as the family man cries in the final line, “Leave me alone, ’cause I’ve got to go home.” But I could not help thinking, as that last line hung in the air, that this weak, pathetic man had managed to cling to his conscience just long enough to slide past the door of Sheol and get to go home.

Perhaps it is silly to be glad over a passing moral victory for a character in a rock song. If so, I am silly. All I know is that the tiny triumph of a man who only existed for three and a half minutes in a recording studio reminded me that “Leave me alone” is a cry heard all the way to heaven; that real men and women have cried it as they fell, and found themselves helped before it was too late. I was reminded that even our best efforts are mixed with failure and sin, yet from such things our Lord builds new creatures. And I remembered Psalm 130:1-6.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.

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