A couple years ago, I had the amazing opportunity of choreographing a solo for my senior year of high school to compete with. As this was my last year with my company and high school dance teams, I wanted to make the piece memorable and something that told a bit of my story. I’m a bit of a storyteller when it comes to creative outlets and so choreography, although still new to me, was a perfect way of expressing myself and the stories I wanted to tell.
After debating for months, I chose the song “Broken Crown” by Mumford & Sons which is in the link at the end of this post. Although I would hope the choreography speaks for itself, I wanted to take time to really break down the heavy message within the lyrics and music of the song and how it personally relates to me.
Even at a first read of the lyrics, you can get a sense of the struggle the singer is going through:
Touch my mouth and hold my tongue
I’ll never be your chosen one
I’ll be home safe and tucked away
Well You can’t tempt me if I don’t see the day
The pull on my flesh was just too strong
Stifled the choice and the air in my lungs
Better not to breathe than to breathe a lie
‘Cause when I opened my body I breathe in a lie
I will not speak of your sin
There was a way out for Him
The mirror shows not
Your values are all shot
But oh my heart, was flawed I knew my weakness
So hold my hand consign me not to darkness
So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down
I’ll never wear your broken crown
In this twilight, how dare you speak of grace
in this twilight, our choices seal our fate.
The general fight in this song is one of letting yourself truly see yourself as you are and not who you pretend to be. People put on this “crown” to symbolize that they are “good” or “perfect” or “worthy” or “enough”. But what they don’t realize is that the crown is broken because everything you are when you wear that crown is a lie. We pretend to be people were are not, so that we can be accepted, in this case, in our religion. And it all comes down to hypocrisy and wanting to appear as if a crown would fit our heads. But what does Christianity mean if we are all worthy enough of wearing that crown? You can never truly appreciate grace without fulling knowing how much we don’t deserve it. It’s because we are so ugly and destroyed that the love we have received is like no other.
The singer has made his choice in the song that he will “Never wear your broken crown”. But he knows that this is no simple decision. In the beginning of the music, it starts slow and he admits that even the pressure from others that “hold his tongue” to try and get him to talk the way they do, he will never be their “chosen one”. The chosen one seems like this wonderful position to be in. But just like a crown seems like a compliment of power, being “a chosen one” would blind him into thinking he is more worthy than what he actually is. Because he knows this, he goes as far as saying that he will live tucked away so that he can’t be tempted. He’s admitting how human he really is and admitting that maybe the only way he can’t fall into temptation is to stay away from it at all costs.
The second phrase goes more into detail on this idea. He describes that the “pull on his flesh was just too strong” and “stifled the choice”. It’s not easy to say no. And he alludes to the bible and the symbol of the “flesh” and it’s sinful tendencies. But he might be better off than most, because most people can’t even see their sinful nature. And the first step to becoming a better person is first realizing how sinful we actually are. Because even though our sin is ugly, our pride is even uglier. He even goes as far as to say that he would rather die than to live a lie (“Better not to breathe, than to breathe a lie”) because when he lets his body make choices, they are bound to make choices that will allow acceptance (by lying) from people and not God (“when I open my body, I breathe a lie”).
After committing to not wearing the broken crown, he addresses the hypocrites that wear the crowns. However, he does it in a way that is understanding. He knows how challenging it can be to live without giving into sin. He promises “not to speak of their sin” and gives them hope of a “way out”. He’s not there to judge or condemn their choice of living this way, but he very clearly points out how horrific they actually look. He tells them that “the mirror shows not” meaning that how they look on the outside is not who they truly are and their “values are shot”. Their values have no meaning when their actions don’t match what they say they believe.
After his small outrage, he quiets down again and goes back to his story and struggle. In the two statements, I feel like it’s almost like a prayer. “My heart is flawed. Hold my hand, and consign me not to darkness”. That’s all it takes, is admitting to what makes us weak and realizing that we deserve “darkness” (death). But he pleads for God to take his hand and lead him out of the darkness that we are all condemned to. And although we don’t deserve to hold onto his hand and accept that grace, He loves us deeply enough to bring us into life if we admit to our struggles and accept his grace.
The music picks up dramatically as the weight of this settles on his heart and he’s outraged at the people who are still oblivious to the fact that they see themselves as someone that’s worthy enough to wear a crown. He’s not judging them, but almost urging them to see him in his own experience of making that choice. He alludes to the bible and says that he will “crawl on his belly” as the serpent was made to do in Genesis. He would rather be looked down on as sinful and unworthy on earth because he knows that he will be made new when he dies and at least he can admit to the fact that he knows he is sinful. He refers to “the twilight” and yells out to these people “how dare you speak of grace”. I believe that the twilight is symbolizing our lives on earth and the sin we live in now. So all these people wearing broken crowns are praising God and thanking Him for His grace as all “Christians” are taught to do. But he’s furious because how can people who don’t even understand how much they don’t deserve God’s grace be honestly thankful for it. They almost have no right to stand their and thank God emptily because they’re also standing their with this crown they are wearing because they think they are worthy to wear one. He had to become utterly broken and humbled to realize how worthless he was before he was able to understand the weight of God’s grace and love.
He ends the story with one line: “In this twilight, our choices seal our fate.” It’s a bit haunting. That in our “twilight”, in our sinful lives, the choices we make to believe or not believe, to act or not to act will have the impact on our eternity. And it’s seems almost unfair to have to make this choice to believe and behave in the right way when our judgement is so clouded while we are living with our selfish flesh. But that’s the reality. We are born unworthy of life and we either come to that realization or not. With this chilling statement, he hopes to reach everyone wearing those broken crowns in hope to pierce through the veil they are wearing and make them realize who they really are without God but also who they can be when made new with God.
This was my story. I grew up wearing that broken crown. There was always someone to compare to. At least I wasn’t as bad or as sinful as that person next to me. Everyone told me how much of a wonderful Christian I was becoming and I let it get to my head. I didn’t realize that pride was just as much as a sin as lying or cheating or stealing. But then because I was always told I was such a great Christian, there was pressure to keep being a great one. So when I messed up or was judging others or was partaking in sin over the week, I would come back on Sunday and act like I was still “perfect”. I was a hypocrite. I believed I deserved eternal life and God’s love.
But it wasn’t until my eyes were opened that I realized how unworthy I actually was. God was not holding back. I was being a hypocrite. I was sinning but thinking that it wasn’t as bad as other people. I judged other people for having more public sin than my own. And understanding how undeserving I was in all my sin and the fact that I didn’t even realize it broke me. But I am so thankful that it did because my appreciation for the grace and love I have been given is like I have never experienced before. And now all I want for other people is to experience that as well. I’ve learned that you can know how much value God’s love and grace has but you can never really understand the weight of that until you experience understanding that you do not deserve it. What point is having grace if you don’t need it anyway? And the more separated you are from deserving that grace, the more you appreciate the love that never runs out. And I never again want to wear that crown. I refuse to act like I’m perfect when I’m not. I would rather be seen as sinful and struggling, but saved, than seen as someone who is righteous enough to wear a crown.
Below is the choreography if you would like to listen and watch.
lots of love,