Saturday, July 11, 2015

Who Can Satisfy My Soul Like You? – Dennis Jernigan

Dennis Jernigan says this is one of his favorite songs, though it’s phrased as a question. “Who Can Satisfy My Soul Like You?” may sound like a searcher’s uncertainty to some, like someone who hasn’t found in his world the key to contentment. That might be true if the person vocalizing these feelings were brooding over a mortal being with whom he had just lost touch. But Dennis was actually thinking vertically about the personal Creator in 1988, a year when so much happened for Dennis and his wife and family. He made a decision to share something very personal, a risky proposition that someone else might have balked at. But, plunging ahead, Jernigan was really making this rhetorical question-song contain an answer that he wanted his hearers to know is unequivocal. He had the equivalent of a Smiley Face (see it here), a satisfaction that others in our cultural landscape haven’t found (a la the Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger’s outlook on ‘Satisfaction’).

Dennis Jernigan’s story had really become known widely only in the late 1980s, though some of the people closest to him knew of his previous lifestyle and his turning from that. Why should he need to confess his homosexuality to others who weren’t directly impacted by this? He shares that in mid-1988 his sense that God had big plans for him, by confessing this. And so he told the church where he was ministering in Oklahoma the bare facts of his life less than 10 years earlier – that he’d been living as a homosexual, even though he’d grown up knowing and feeling convicted that this was wrong. His Christian upbringing and education must have shouted in his ears at times ‘Dennis, how can you do this?’. A series of events - -a music concert, an in-your-face friend’s confrontation (in a heartfelt, unconditional way), among others – allowed Dennis to accept he could turn from this episode, that God and others would not smite him. But by 1988, Dennis was feeling that Evil’s force was still trying to debilitate him with his own personal history. ‘Unburden yourself’, and even more so, ‘let others know there’s a God that fills up the space that the chief Demon once occupied’. There’s freedom and relief in confession. That’s what you can read of Dennis’ mindset in mid-1988 on his website. And, Dennis discovered something more. Others identified with his situation, a phenomenon that continues today. God had more than just Dennis in mind, but others too who needed the answer he’d found.      

Dennis doesn’t sound like someone who doubted sharing his story in 1988 was the right thing to do. No, from his song’s words, you get the feeling that he was very secure in this. That says something about Christian fellowship that is genuine. There’s no condemnation, since everyone stumbles, even thrashes about with behavioral and attitudinal junk. Dennis had discovered where to unload his refuse, and how to get beyond its stench, even after he’d dumped it years before. Just admit to others that you’ve got B. O., a body odor that asserts itself, unless you take a shower and clean up. Dennis shares that his 1988 experience was like having Mary Magdalene’s perfume poured out. The people at the scene disparaged her for this, but she made dirty feet and an entire room smell beautiful. Dennis did something our world today says is foolish too – turning from inner feelings, and offering Him his broken vessel-life. What brings satisfaction? Is Mick Jagger all wrong in his words…satisfaction is not here in our world? How about in another world?   

Composer’s rendition of song:
And, see this book:  Giant Killers: Crushing Strongholds , Securing Freedom in Your Life, by Dennis Jernigan. WaterBrook Press, 2005.

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