I stumbled across this B.B. King blues song and was fascinated by how much meaning and feeling were packed into its simple lyrics:

Nobody loves me but my mother,
And she could be jivin’ too.       

Now you see why I act so funny, baby,
When you do the things you do.

Wow! Think of the profound insights being expressed here!

First, Nobody loves me but my mother. We’ve all heard the description of a person as having “a face only a mother could love.” That’s a cruel thing to say about anyone, but it does affirm the power of a mother’s instinct to care for and care about her child. The person singing this song feels so alone and rejected that his mother seems to be the only one he matters to. How sad.

But it goes further; the thought comes to him that She could be jivin’ too.* Maybe even his mother doesn’t care about him. Maybe she’s faking it.

King was born in 1925 to a very poor share-cropper family in rural Mississippi. Details are sketchy, but apparently when he was four years old, his mother left his father for another man. He was taken in by his grandmother for a while, but later moved back with his mother. However, she died when he was nine, so this was the second time she “left” him. Imagine the insecurity a child feels when his most basic caring relationship can’t be counted on. He wants to be assured of his mother’s love, but then, maybe she’s just jivin’ too.

The last two lines of the song

Now you see why I act so funny, baby,
When you do the things you do.

reflect on the fact that problems in early childhood strongly affect our relationships later in life. Someone acts or speaks in a certain way, and this brings back old feelings of rejection or abandonment. We respond in a way that is probably unfair to the other person, but we’re coming from primal childhood hurts that seem rational to us at the time. The blues singer is trying to explain this to his “baby” so she won’t leave him as his mother did.

Psalm 142 is the prayer of a person who knows rejection and loneliness:

Look on my right hand and see—
there is no one who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares about me. (verse 4)

But he has had past experience that makes him confident that God will hear him when he prays:

I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.” (verse 5)

His final affirmation, You will deal bountifully with me (verse 7), shows that he knows that his God is not jivin’, but truly and eternally loves him. From this confidence and acceptance, he’ll be able to treat others with integrity and respect.

— Pastor George Van Alstine

*If you don’t know what jivin’ is, you’ve led too sheltered a life.