Music Part 3 – I Wish We’d All Been Ready

The (Christian) Music that Shaped Me – Part 3

(Here is where you can read the series introduction, part 1, and part 2.)

I Wish We’d All Been Ready

(In this series I’m sharing music that has been influential to me, personally. My hope is twofold: First, that some of my younger friends will be able to appreciate “from whence we’ve come” and to be encouraged to continue to seek fresh ways to communicate their faith through music. Second, that those of my generation will enjoy looking back a bit, but more than that, I pray that we will continue to recognize and encourage the creativity of today’s Christian musicians.)

This song is one that is easy to criticize on a number of levels. Its eschatology is completely pre-millennial, which is a view I do not endorse. The music, as well as the sentiment, could be considered sappy in the extreme. The fact that it has become associated with the whole “Left Behind” thing is reason enough for criticism.

But, since the original release by Larry Norman (more on him next week) it has been covered by a wide range of singers throughout the years, including (but not limited to) Cliff Richard, Pat Boone, The Hoppers, Spanky and Our Gang, The Oak Ridge Boys, dc Talk, Jordin Sparks…and every youth group meeting throughout the 1970s.

Also, it had a profound impact on me.

Even though it was written and released by Larry Norman in 1969, I first heard the song about 1972 by Randy Matthews. It’s kind of hard to explain how the song affected me, because when I listen now I only hear what’s wrong with it.

But affect me it did.

It affected me in exactly the way I think it was intended to affect people. It confronted me with the reality of Jesus’ imminent return. It was really going to happen. Was I ready? Was my faith real?

See, I was raised in the church. I sort of inherited my faith. It was more assumed than established. This song came at a time when I was just beginning to come to grips with what it meant to have a faith that was my own. In fact, I believe it was instrumental in that transition.

As I look back on it now, it seems to me this song is also a good example of a few of the major differences that the new “Jesus Music” introduced.

I realize that most of what I’m about to say consists of broad generalizations. Certainly, there are many exceptions. However, I believe the generalities are true and that they tell us something. At least they make sense to me.

Most of the Christian music I had experienced so far was written for insiders. The songs about Jesus’ return, for example, would be songs of celebration. We’ve arrived at the “pearly gates” and are walking on “streets of gold.” “What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

But these new songs were being written by people whose faith wasn’t rooted in the deep heritage of a believing family or a Christian culture. These were new believers with a fresh and vibrant faith who wanted to share what they have found with their peers.

As a result, this music didn’t exhibit a lot of theological scholarship or depth. Don’t misunderstand me. There was plenty of scripture involved. This song is filled with images lifted straight from Jesus’ own words about his return. These folks were reading the Bible with fresh eyes. They read it and they believed it. It was pretty much that simple. Some would say their faith was naïve and unsophisticated. I would agree. But I believe this is one of the things that made the music powerful.

The musical style itself indicated that it wasn’t written just for “insiders.” It was simply the folk/rock style that these new believers were familiar with. Consequently, it sounded very different from the music that had become such a part of church culture, and it wasn’t really accepted there. (More on this next week.)

But what it was saying to me and my generation was:

Jesus was not just a historical figure. He is alive today.

Jesus’ music is not just a historical artifact. It is alive today.

I Wish We’d All Been Ready is a cheesy song with bad theology. But it didn’t seem that way at the time, and I believe it had a big part in shaping who I am.


The first time I heard this song…

I Wish We’d All Been Ready
Larry Norman – 1969

Life was filled with guns and war
and everyone got trampled on the floor.
I wish we’d all been ready.

Children died the days grew cold,
a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold.
I wish we’d all been ready.

 There’s no time to change your mind,
the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

Two men walking up a hill,
one disappears and one’s left standing still.
I wish we’d all been ready.

 A man and wife asleep in bed,
she hears a noise and turns her head, he’s gone.
I wish we’d all been ready.

 There’s no time to change your mind.
How could you have been so blind?
The Father spoke, the demons dined,
the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.


5 thoughts on “Music Part 3 – I Wish We’d All Been Ready”

  1. Memories of youth group sing-alongs, memories of learning that others need to hear the gospel come to my mind. It was a prayerful song to me, though I realized it might not be completely accurate. Thank you for sharing!

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