"There should be a peace and a joy in the unfinished handiwork of God because, frankly, it'll always be unfinished. But for now, I think it's unreasonable and immature to think that we're anything other than in process. The mystery of a love relationship, not the final definition, is the bottom line."

by Melissa Riddle

{{Margaret Becker}} sits on the retro '60s chaise unaffected by the view. However understandable that may be (she does live here, after all), the same cannot be said of me. Beyond the vast white-paned windows--glass that spans two stories top to bottom, and the entire wall, left to right--bare white birch trees, sway soulfully, gracefully in a blustery February wind.

Beyond the birch, the horizon is visibly dulled by pockets of mist not ready yet to fall. It's just past one o'clock, but shadows creep through the window-walls to steal any natural light. Only the candlelight and the glow of the fireplace repel them. As the hours pass, the house grows dimmer still. The birches sway in complete abandon, oblivious to those who might be concerned, obviously grateful for the wind.

In these shadows, Margaret Becker shares her journey of the last few years, a tripping tale of what happens to one's soul once grace really takes hold, fueling a passion beyond words, feathering wings to fly free into the mystery that is God. On her latest album, you'll hear it in the lyrics, but here in mid-winter, it's real: She's "on fire with the heat of the newly freed."

"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free (Mt. 18)."

Free to Be

There are moments and seasons in life when circumstances crystallize into inescapable truths, when what we feel translates into what we know about ourselves. The past few years have been such a time for Margaret Becker, a melting away of the expectations that have kept her hemmed in, a recognition of the immediacy of life and the need to live it fully. No longer concerned with the end result, she has embraced the process of becoming.

"In the past couple of years, I've had a lot of people close to me get desperately ill, and pass away. That will sober you up and make you understand how light life should be and how important life is. It's as if someone rips a veil off your eyes, and for a moment, you see it like it truly is. In a sense, it lightens your load, and it makes things a lot less serious. But it also crystallizes to form what is very serious, and that is to live your life passionately under the umbrella of Christ and to live your life as if every day is your last."

I am clay and I am water/falling forward in this order/while the world spins round so fast/slowly I'm becoming who I am.

The secret to living that way, Becker says, is in seeing life as a process, a journey of the soul into the mystery of God. "There should be a peace and a joy in the unfinished handiwork of God because, frankly, it'll always be unfinished. But for now, I think it's unreasonable and immature to think that we're anything other than in process. The mystery of a love relationship, not the final definition, is the bottom line."

To look around her house is to see a curious thing--photos of Margaret on Margaret's walls, reminders of herself in various times and places. Different hair styles, different shades of womanhood, completely separate and yet so much a part of who she is today. Vintage cameras and microphones stand around as if to say, "we knew her when she was...we have it all recorded right here."

"There is peace within the process and knowing God is not looking down on me because I'm in process. He enjoys the process, and He encourages the process because He Himself designed the process.

"We are so bred to live in the future that we are being robbed, literally robbed," Becker continues. "If you ever want to talk about what I think is a demonic influence in our lives, right now, in this century, it's the influence of being robbed of the present. It's not about tomorrow as much as it is about right now. Yes, we should be cognizant of where we're going when it's all over, but the scriptures tell us not to worry about tomorrow, tomorrow hasn't come. That's what it's like to be freed, to let go of all these, I call them pick-up sticks."

Free to Feel

So with sticks all over the ground, Becker has chosen to acknowledge and accept the freedom in Christ that so often we misunderstand, then dismiss. Hers is a brave new world, structured only by the passionate love she has for Jesus. There are no lines, no thinking about how far she could push the envelope. It is a living, breathing connection with God. "When you're making that connection, when you're making that affair with Christ, all of a sudden the properness and the sloppiness thereof becomes really so dismissable, almost laughable and insulting," says Becker, slightly frustrated in the explanation, her delicate, strong hands registering what she is trying to say before she says it. "I'm so tired of trying to define a love affair with words. Our language is not up to the task. So why are we even trying. Let's just talk about whatever the little glimpse of passion that each moment is and let's just hope to God that within that huge ocean, he'll take a droplet out that makes sense to everybody. If I could just get a drop, that'd be great."

One drop at a time, Becker has learned, is the finest way to 'sip the truth' of who God is, of who she is, of how life is. Life, especially the Christian life, is not a 'Big Gulp' and to think so can be dangerous. "If God told us the truth about every single little thing that had to do with us at the beginning, when we first understood Him, we would die of delight and terror all at the same time. We're not built to handle that kind of truth." It's like Jack Nicholson's line in the movie A Few Good Men, she says, doing her best Jack impression. "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"

People look at Christ, she says, in such an "odd, skewed" way, "especially within Christian culture. We look at Christ, we limit Him, and we put Him in this tiny little box. But when you recognize all that this encompasses, all the freedoms and passions and the wide-open spaces--all within the context of faith--you have to sip it. Because if you take it in all at one time, you're going to miss every little nuance. It'll take your whole life to look at that picture."

One of the truths that has hit Becker mid-sip is how easy it is to get lost in the living, instead of living intentionally. "What I've realized in this period of scoping is that I have been living half-way. I've been feeling halfway. I've been laughing halfway. I've been interacting with people halfway. And what an insult to God to be granted these moments in our lives and for us not to voraciously devour them and seek out all that we can within the context of them.

"I have become more aware of God's presence in everyday situations," she continues. "I have sensed God more in the mundane than in the fabulous, more in the reckless than in the structured. And for me, in practical terms, that means, I'm trying to have an inner understanding of Him every moment of my life. This whole new voracity for life is all under the umbrella of Christ."

Free to Fly

And so the girl who always wanted to be first, to be out front, is now the woman who is more concerned with just being whole. Living wholly.
Expressing her faith in that wholeness. The Margaret Becker who brought us ==Soul== and ==Grace== is experiencing her own personal renaissance, an awakening she chronicles in her latest album, ==Falling Forward==.

This album marks a brave new beginning for Becker, an artistic path that mirrors her spiritual path. She has purposely chosen to guide the recording process, to take ownership and responsibility from the beginning, so that in the end, the project would be true. "This is the first time I've said 'look, these are the things I feel passionately about, and these are the things I've tested out on audiences. Those hard core people who come to see me, this is what they're responding to, and I want to connect with them.'
And so, this album is very different from the others, in that I haven't edited one lyric. I haven't tried to soften a lyric or make a lyric a little blurry because [what's happened to me] is too poignant."

Musically and lyrically, Becker has never been more intimate than she is on ==Falling Forward==, which is no small feat for one who has always bared her soul in her music. It is, she says, a "journey into the mystery of relationship with Christ."

Even so, she's aware of the risks. Some fans who came on with ==Soul== and ==Grace== will be taken back by what she calls a 'less homogenized' sound. Some may find the lyrics or the sound a little too intimate, even sensual. But Becker has embraced those emotions; she has chosen to reveal them. This one is the one she always wanted to create.

"Get out the dice and roll it," she says, with half a grin, "because I have no idea where it's going. It's a risk, but it's a risk that I take gladly, and each step is ladled with passion, because I don't care at this point. I'm not impressed. I'm not impressed with me and I'm not impressed with the rest either, with the rest of what's out there.

"And you know what, it is only music. In that sense, I'm taking it very lightly. Whether people like it or not, I'm not concerned with that because truly the joy for me already happened. The act of creating, that was the joy for me. So my joy's already done. I already had my piece and it was delicious. And whether or not I get a pat on the back for it really is of no eternal meaning to me."

Guess that explains why three bronze Dove awards adorn the back of her toilet.

Like a beggar blessed/I stumble in the grace/reaching out my hand for what awaits.

The album, like her recent book of essays, Come As You Are, (released mid-June by Harvest House) reveals the "ragged beauty" of life viewed through the lens of faith, the beauty found in embracing the beggar in all of us.

"If you had asked me to describe my whole life in its entirety, it would have to be that one line. Because there have been times that I've been just stumbling in a circle, like under a street lamp in the snow in rags. But I'm illuminated by God's grace and somehow, He's taking that extra movement that seems circular to me and He's making it linear, and He's pulling me to the next thing. It has nothing to do with me, my skill, and my ability to recognize His hand, anything. It has everything to do with the fact that He has mercy on me. It's a mercy that surpasses any definition or even the sound, or the phonics of the word mercy. It surpasses everything.

"Sometimes I have no idea what's East, West, North, or South, wrong or right in certain situations, and yet I stumble there and I'm waiting. I'm just waitingand all of a sudden I come to and I recognize I'm about fifty feet from where I was and I never knew it. But God Himself has come and moved me. That's my life.

"I'll always be a beggar, and I'll always be in rags. It's frightening, but yet it's releasing at the same time because I recognize I have no control over this process. The process as it's dictated by God has absolute control over me."

Free At Last

God must have a great sense of humor. He delights in contradictions. The weak really are the strong. The last shall be first. The meek shall inherit the earth. The list goes on and on. One needs only to accept God's absolute control to find absolute freedom. To accept the poverty of our humanness is to enjoy the riches found therein.

"I've always felt like that Proverb where it talks about a spider in the king's palace. She didn't get there on her own accord, she went on somebody's backpack, and she's ended up in the king's palace. And I've always felt like that--that I just hopped on somebody's backpack and I wound up in the king's palace. I've always felt like, if I just humble myself before God, He'll lift me up.

This is where you'll find {{Margaret Becker}}, smack in the middle of the king's palace. Simply and gratefully thrilled to be there. His windows wide open, she is free at last to explore the fine delicacies of the wide, wide world she finds in Him, oblivious to those who might be concerned, obviously grateful for the wind.

This article originally appeared in the April 1998 issue of CCM Magazine.

Becker Discography:

==Never For Nothing== 1987
==The Reckoning== 1988
==Immigrant's Daughter== 1989
==Simple House== 1991
==Steps of Faith 1987-1991== 1992 (Spanish)
==Soul== 1993
==Along the Road== 1994 (Ashton/Becker/Dente')
==Grace== 1995
==Fiel a Ti== 1995 (Spanish)
==Falling Forward== 1998