Twenty-Four Plus Ten
I don't listen to Switchfoot anymore.
That's not a knock on the alternative rock (is that still a genre?) band's music or lyricism. The band was incredibly important to me during my college years. Their songs ignited me like few things did during that time. But as I waded deeper into adulthood, the tether that tied my heart to their music snapped and I'm not exactly sure why. Time deepens some loves and erodes others.
So it was weird that Jon Foreman's voice was the first thing I heard in my head when I woke up on my thirty-fourth birthday:
I want to see miracles
To see the world change
I wrestled the angel
For more than a name
Those lyrics--from a song titled "Twenty-Four"-- came to me like a ghost in the early morning and the haunt still lingers with me a day later. On one hand, it's probably a sleight of synapse. Foreman wrote that song for his 24th birthday and there is little phonetic difference between that number and the age I just reached.
Yet the nature of those lyrics are convicting to me. I used to have a far more optimistic worldview. I am not a pessimist by any stretch. I often try to encourage the people around me that things are going to be okay, but I'm aware of the fact that some of that is an attempt to quell the rising tide of anxiety that exists within me.
There was a time when I could passionately sing along with those lyrics with utmost sincerity. In retrospect, I think some of that hope came from a place of privilege. When you're young and learning so much about your faith and falling in love and living in community, it feel like the world is about to burst forth with life. I was fortunate that there was a time when I thought it would always be spring. I believed that I would see miracles and I believed that the church would be a catalyst for beautiful change in the world.
And all of it is more complicated than that. Change is often slow; painfully, glacially slow. It is frequently met with resistance that fights tooth and nail. When the world changes, it scares people and frightened people, whether it is intentional or not, will seek to wound. The church has been my home my entire life. It has always been a place of refuge; a place where miracles and change can be born. But I have witnessed the exposed claws and bared fangs of some churches in fear of change.
There have been lots of good people mixed up in those situations as well; I will include my wonderful family members amongst those good people. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but you don't forget the violence. You don't forget the slow realization that a place of hope can be abused. You don't forget friends who are hurt for minor differences in belief or pursuing a calling to minister even though they are the "wrong" gender. You don't forget when all the morals you heard preached as a youth are swept under the rug for political expediency.
A lot of crap has hit a lot of fans in the world during my adulthood and none of us has come out smelling like roses. And I will include myself in that crowd. My hope for the church is that it's a place where everyone can come as they are and find the grace of God that we know in Jesus. What I have seen in the ten years since I turned twenty-four is that is not always the case. I don't think it is out of malice. I just think it's complicated. I think many of us are scared deep down of what would happen if the world did truly change, if justice rolled down like a river. Maybe. Maybe not.
Yet here I literally sit in a church about nine months into a leap of faith. And I realize I'm here because those song lyrics that appeared in the gray matter of my brain yesterday morning are always reverberating in my heart. There are times when I am too cynical or lazy or stupid to hear them, but they're there. It's more a humble prayer now than a confident statement of belief, but it's there. It always has been.
But, God, I want to see miracles and I want to see the world change. I think that is why I am working with young people. They are the ones who are either too optimistic or too stubborn to accept things for the way they are now. And I have wrestled, and probably will continue to wrestle, the angel and more than my share of demons to get to where I am now at thirty-four. Giving in now would be a waste of all that struggle.
What I'm saying is I'm not copping out. I'm not giving up. I am grateful to be where I am and grateful I have the opportunity to minister in a church like this. So at 34, I'll echo what I prayed ten years ago: I want to see miracles and to see the world change. May God raise the dead in me and all of us. I will hope.