Isn’t She Lovely

By Bobby Neal Winters Published on March 15, 2023

I listen to the classic rock station while I work in my shop — the stuff I listened to in my twenties, 30 to 40 years ago. A week or so ago, I listened to Stevie Wonder singing “Isn’t She Lovely?” and I realized it’s a completely different song than the song I thought I’d been listening to for the last 40 years.

The difference hinges on the “she.” If all you listen to is the hook in the chorus, you can be forgiven for thinking that “she” is the singer’s romantic interest.

No. Far from it.

“She” is his newly born daughter.

Rushing Joy

Joy is rushing through his heart because he now has a daughter. I’ve experienced this three times in my life, so I can connect. This would’ve been part of my personal soundtrack at the birth of each of my daughters, but I didn’t understand the song.

And this is a song that is, shall we just use the word, religious.

We have been Heaven-blessed/

I can’t believe what God has done/

Through us, He’s given life to one/

But isn’t she lovely made from love?

The singer recognizes that couples partner with God in the creation of human life. He firms up that truth by pointing out that in a loving family, a child is created in an act of love. That child is a walking symbol of that act of love.

The part about being a partner with God in the creation of life was uttered first by Eve when she said, “I’ve got me a man with the Lord.” This was reinforced when Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God, after saying “yes” to the angel’s question.

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The Bible reinforces God’s part in the procreation of new human beings in the passages where women petitioned God, plaintively, to give them a child. They knew how children were created in the physical way, but needed help. Rachel, for example. “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son.” We do our part, God does His.

This is the way humanity understands the connection of sex with procreation and the continuation of the species. As the philosophers would put it, God is Being Itself and we continue the Being of the human race by having children. As an atheist might put it, the world supplies the ability to continue the species and we make sure humanity lasts into the future by having children.

How It All Works

For those of us who grew up when farms were more prevalent, and more people raised animals, we learned that a bull was a “daddy” cow and the cow was the “mommy” cow. A rooster was a “daddy” chicken and a hen was a “mommy” chicken. Those are terms taken from a typical, traditional family that a child can understand. We might see them at work continuing their species. We knew how it all works.

Bringing God into procreation is recognition that a child is not conceived every time a couple comes together. In Christian cultures, and in many of the cultures of the ancient world, the creation of the child was viewed as God’s blessing (or the gods’ blessing) of the act. Well, children were considered to be valuable in those days. They could help tend the sheep, help tend the crops, and they could take care of you when you were old.

Beyond that, however, I do believe there is something primitively deep within us that yearns. We have this collection of ancient voices within ourselves which speak below the threshold of hearing. They attempt to direct us. Some have called it the collective unconscious, but I don’t know enough about it to go any further.

These voices are sometimes silenced by culture; sometimes they are redirected. But they are always there. Something tells us — especially if sex is an act of love for us, and not just entertainment — that the children that sometimes result from acts of love are themselves lovely.

Yes, She Is Lovely

Today, many have come to see children as being an inconvenient byproduct of sex. Sex is natural, a right, even. The fact that it can sometimes produce children is a glitch, a problem with reality. It’s unfair. They won’t sing “Isn’t she lovely?” about any child they find themselves burdened with.

Religion gives us language and context for our knowledge that that’s wrong. It provides meaning where we might otherwise be faced with a reality that was just one d***ed thing after another.

So, I didn’t get “Isn’t She Lovely?” 40 years ago. I wasn’t listening carefully enough and heard what the culture directed everyone to hear. And maybe I couldn’t hear, the way I can now, four decades and three daughters later.

She is lovely. They are lovely. A man, a woman, and if God wills, a new life.

 

Bobby Neal Winters is associate dean of the college of arts and sciences and a university professor at Pittsburg State University. A native of Harden City, Oklahoma, he blogs at Red Neck Math and Okie in Exile.

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