So, my memories are often connected to music. Today I pulled out an old switchfoot cd (The Beautiful Letdown) and gave it a listen, and a whole bunch of memories flooded back into my mind about the time when I needed Jon Foreman’s words from this album most. It’s amazing listening to these words again now, and seeing that they’re meeting me again right where I need to hear them. But this is not the same place as before.
The entire album for me clearly deals with living life to the fullest, and not succumbing to the mediocrity suburban living often brings. I wrestle with these thoughts too.
There’s a song on the album called “24”, that Jon Foreman says he wrote on his 24th birthday. I remember listening to this song about 5 years ago. In my head at the time I couldn’t imagine myself being 24, and what life would look like for me then. As I sit and listen to these words now, I realize that 24 is coming at me in about a year and 3 months, and I finally understand a few things Jon speaks about in the song.
I finally understand what he means when he says “I’m not copping out”. I’m still 22. But as it stands, I feel the pressure all the time to live an ‘ordinary’ life. Around about this time in my life, there’s a pull: A pull towards security, a pull towards building a life of comfort. I don’t know when it started, but I distinctly feel the pull every now and again. And if I’m not careful I will find myself giving in to that pressure and living in it. It’s up to me to decide. Jon sings those words “I’m not copping out” like a lament. Like it’s not easy, this not copping out. And he sings it like it’s taking all that he has to not give in to the pull (I say he’s done a pretty good job, but those are just my standards. I’m biased, ‘cos I’m a fan ;).)
This song has encouraged me to remember again, who I am. Who I’m growing into. It’s making me think back to when I was 18, and remembering all the crazy dreams and things I wanted to achieve. And even though some would say it’s early days for me, I want to remember: I’m not copping out. Like many people I admire, I want to “live to the hilt every situation that I believe to be the will of God” for me (Jim Elliot).
In the song, Jon Foreman then recounts all the things that he still wants to see, to do, in this life of not copping out:
I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
And again I can clearly relate. And I know that in order to see these things, it’ll take persistence. Going against the grain is never easy, but I think it bears the most fruit. In my character. And in the quality of life that I experience. I want stories like Jacob wrestling with the angel. I want to play my part in changing the world. I want to see miracles and to see God actively working in my life and in the lives of others. This is not ordinary. This is extraordinary living. Taking an introspective look at my life now, I see how I’m honestly getting some of these things right, and how I’m missing the mark in some areas. But I suppose this is where we learn. It’s a painful place, but it’s the best place. And again today, because of thoughts and songs like these, I can say: “and I’m not who I thought I was 24 hours ago”, and know that it’s ok.
I’m reminded of some of my favourite lines in Ulysses, by Lord Alfred Tennyson.
Come, my friends.
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
They were old when they felt this way. I want to recognize and hold onto this feeling now while I’m 22, so that it’ll stick and stir something inside of me when I feel like copping out in the years to come. Jon foreman describes this feeling so beautifully in 24, making his words my favourite line in the whole song : “ I’m singing, spirit take me up in arms with you: you’re raising the dead in me”. I think this is what that feels like. So next year, when I graciously step onto my 24 year old feet, I want to have learned so much, and lived so much that I can, like Jon, say “and I’m not who I thought I was 24 hours ago”. Because it will be true.