Remembering mysteriousness 

Without question, my most memorable and cherished times within my Christian faith were the times when I was young and I embraced without question, a sense of mystery. 

Eventually I grew up and learned to question, to doubt, to be skeptical, often for very good reasons. Somewhere along the way though, mystery got left behind. 

We now have comprehensive world views that explain more and more of how the world we see around us functions. With this knowledge, mystery seems to have lost its capital. Our faith in our own abilities to explain the world has left little to no room or value for the unexplainable. 

One of the themes I see in the New Testament that Paul speaks of is the mystery of God’s plans and workings. I could sense the wonder in the words while reading them this evening. In one place he says God revealed the mystery of what He was doing in Jesus so that He might share it. In another place he comes to the edge of his ability to understand and exclaims how vast and unsearchable the ways and plans of God are. 

While reflecting on this idea of mysteriousness this evening, I realized within myself that in my search for answers and explanations like so many of us search for, I have felt increasingly empty. I felt empty because I incrementally traded a God beyond my capacity to understand for one that I was came to believe I could define and understand.

The most fundamental quality of interacting with mystery is faith and trust. Though I am not dismissing knowledge in the least, I have spent years embracing intellectual approaches in my faith believing they are the steps necessary for a fuller faith in God. In actuality however,  I’ve been wrong and been operating from a fall premise. The first step is to lay that to the side and approach by faith and trust, remembering above all that God is above all, beyond understanding, beyond explanatory paradigms. 

Help me Lord to remember. Help me always remember that you Lord are mysterious. 

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! tHow unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34  “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

35  “Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. ~ Romans 11:33-36

The Grace in Wonder

Do you ever cease to be amazed at the advances of technology that have transformed our world?

The collective engineering and coordination that has to take place to design and build a skyscraper or a naval vessel or coordinate a major event like the super bowl is difficult to get one’s head around.

When I was a kid, I remembered reading about the SR-71 spy plane. One thing bothered me though. One of the books I had read on Air Force planes said it leaked fuel profusely. It was so bad that they had to refuel it via a tanker immediately after every take off.

I distinctly remember being troubled by this. How could they design a plane that flew so fast and cost so much money and yet have such an egregious flaw in design?

Well as it turns out, it wasn’t a flaw in the design after all. I found out years later that it was built that way on purpose because the titanium would stretch under heat. To compensate, they left gaps where fuel would leak out while it was on the runway, but as soon as it accelerated to operating speed, the frame would stretch and the leaks would seal.

As a kid, I just assumed the designers had overlooked the potential for this undesirable outcome. I assumed this because at that time, I didn’t have the necessary knowledge to understand the immense complexity and engineering genius that made the SR-71 unique.

I was a 12 year old kid fascinated with a plane because it looked cool and went fast (I’m still that way too), but had no idea what all went into to actually making the plane fulfill its purposes for creation and design.

We are all like that though aren’t we? We all tend to look at life, things or people and, if we aren’t careful, become critical because we think we have all the necessary facts in order to form an accurate conclusion.

Kids do this to their parents, parents do it to their bosses, church members do it their pastors, students do it to their teachers, citizens do it to their elected officials, countries do it to other countries, and we all do it to the God who created the universe in one way or another.

Had I been lucky enough to have met one of the designers of the SR-71 back then, I hope I would have respectfully asked why the plane leaked and not just popped off some ugly remark about how stupid they were for designing a plane that ended up leaking. That way I could have learned something from someone who clearly had significantly more knowledge about the subject matter than I did and also spared my ego when I found out later just how little I really knew.

Not only that, but it is far more satisfying and rewarding to live in the continual wonder and amazement of the beauty, intricacies and complexity of life, people and things — particularly when it comes to jets that go Mach 3+. 😉

Jesus and Evolution: Redeeming Meaning and Purpose

Growing up, evolution was one of those subjects that no one in my family or church talked about. If it was talked about, it was regulated to a category of people who wanted nothing to do with God and used evolution as an excuse to explain a world without God. If you were to ask me about evolution, even just a couple of years ago, I would have scoffed and said it was ridiculous. After all, how could any reasonable person expect me to believe that life in all its complexity evolved from a collection of algae on an ocean rock? Thinking about it even now intuitively seems like a silly notion not worthy of devoting any serious time to considering.

This is not to say my family or my fellow Christians who wrote off evolution years ago as anti-God propaganda weren’t critical thinkers. Even scientists admit it is not the answer one would intuitively arrive at. I know for me, it didn’t seem like it was worth my time to even think about, much less discuss.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t have genuine questions growing up, particularly concerning dinosaurs. The same intuition I relied on to tell me evolution was ridiculous, also told me that the earth was surely older than 6,000 years. The thoughtful explanation given to me by my grandmother when I was young was that there were civilizations before Adam and Eve, but they were wiped out and God started over with Adam and Eve.

This was a satisfactory explanation for me for most of my life up until a few years ago, primarily because I never gave it much thought seeing that explanation as being more than reasonable and after all, how could we know what happened so far back anyway. In fairness, I don’t discount the entirety of this theory / belief out of hand even to this day. Certainly there are elements to this belief that line up with scientific findings. I will not go into that here however.

The first awakening of my uneasiness concerning evolution occurred when we took a family trip to Arizona. We visited the Grand Canyon of course, but before that we visited the Petrified Forest. Sitting there looking over the desert and visiting the park’s museum as suggested by my grandmother, I came face to face with the reality that the earth has been here for a very long time. Living in northeast Texas, it is not readily apparent how old the earth actually is because we are surrounded by wildlife and vegetation. Even though I had lived in southern Arizona for a brief time while in the Army, something about this moment was different. Perhaps it comes with age and a greater awareness of one’s own mortality, but I felt incredibly small; not in the traditional sense of there being millions of people in the world, but small in relation to the passage of time.

“…For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” – James 4:14

This feeling would be compounded when we visited the Grand Canyon. Magnificent and beautiful took on a whole other definition when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. So also did that sense of smallness in relation to time and space.

Here is a short video that talks about the age of the Grand Canyon for anyone interested.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgE-dSx-fPc

I left Arizona and returned home with a profound sense of gratitude that I was able to witness something that literally took millions of years to create. With this positive experience however came questions, questions that would come to a head a short time later. My daughter began asking me tough questions about God and the age of the earth. Not wanting to simply offer explanations to appease, but rather real answers based on scientific fact and reason, I began looking more closely at the subject of evolution. What I found was tremendously unsettling. All the mockery I had taken part in over the years when people asked me about evolution came back to haunt me.

I am not going to go any further on my reasons for my eventual acceptance of biological evolution here. For those who are interested, I have read that one of the best books on the subject to date, written from a Christian standpoint is called “the language of God” by Dr. Francis Collins. For the purposes of this writing, I simply state that I found the evidence for biological evolution overwhelming.

For those who have spent years studying the Bible, accepting evolution as fact has serious ramifications from a Christian standpoint. There are doctrinal issues as well as reliability issues that one is faced with concerning the Bible in light of a world brought about by evolution. The common complaints usually levied by the strongest critics of religion and Christianity however are not the issues I refer to. What I found when listening to people like Hitchens and Dawkins was that their arguments were surprisingly disappointing when trying to argue against the Bible. Many of the issues they raise have already been tackled by great Christian thinkers over the years. They may know a lot about science, but they are amateurs in the world of theology and philosophy. I don’t mean that as an insult, but as an observation.

The issues I have been centrally concerned with are what I consider the most basic, fundamental issues of life. Perhaps chiefly in this regard is what I have already alluded to about one’s smallness in the world, not only in relation to being one among hundreds of millions of people currently in the world, but being one of billions of vapors that vanish in the vastness of time. In short, what is the significance of one person and one fleeting life in a world so big and in a span of time so long?

I have listened to atheists who reason how they came to believe that there is no God. The most common view I have heard is that either God doesn’t exist or if he does, he doesn’t care anything about us. This is based on the understanding of the Big Bang Theory and that how it is commonly accepted that any action on the part of God (if there is a God) took place in that moment and that we have no evidence of his intervention in the physical world after the Big Bang itself. This type of God is seen as cold, distant, uncaring and even evil due to the reality of suffering and death.

I can certainly understand and even sympathize with this viewpoint. If one simply looks at what we know of the visible world, it is completely reasonable to deduce that we are nothing more than high functioning animals. If God exists, from this viewpoint, we are no more significant than the chalk on a chalkboard that we wipe away with a brush, not giving it a second thought.

I of course am not the first to ponder on the seeming meaningless of life. King David was the first person I ever read who pondered the question on the significance of man in relation to God.   He said…

“What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” – Psalms 8:4

In context, David is praising God for being kind to mankind. The very fact that God created man and the goodness he experienced or perceived (though he had many family problems) made him want to praise God for the unmerited kindness God bestowed on him.

I have often pondered in a more negative fashion, this same question, only asking it from the standpoint of being that one among billions of specks of chalk dust on God’s blackboard. I have never sought to blame God. After all, He is God. If He wanted to view me like the speck of chalk that I am in relation to Him, it is certainly His right to do so. I am ultimately a tiny part of His creation and what He does with His creation is his business. Certainly the pot has no grounds from which to judge the potter on why or how He chooses to make the pot.

All of this is cold comfort from a human standpoint though and we human beings are by no small measure, troubled by this notion. The atheist on an emotional level I think rejects the idea of God because this type of cold, uncaring God is seen as lacking any love, care or compassion and who would want to acknowledge, much less worship a God like that?  The agnostic I believe would typically rather avoid the whole line of questioning altogether. At least that is what I would do if I were an atheist or agnostic.

What I purposefully left out of that quote from David were the next two verses. Most would understandably not think twice about these verses, but for those who have studied Biblical prophecy, we know that what David says in the following verse is actually a prophetic statement foretelling the coming of the Messiah, even though he surely had no clue he was prophesying when he made the statement.

“For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” – Psalms 8:5-6

Here we have King David praising God for earthly blessings and kindness and it is as if God steps into space and time and speaks through his praise, foretelling of something far greater that is to come. This far greater kindness would come long after David’s death, but the God that it reveals is not subject to space or time.

If you are not familiar with Biblical Messianic prophecy or you are an agnostic or atheist, I realize this might seem like I am running off the rails of reason trying to read meaning that isn’t there into an archaic religious text. My intention for writing this is not to explore Old Testament Messianic prophecy so I would ask that you allow me this indulgence without providing an explanation on why the Psalms are highly prophetic concerning the Messiah. You see, for me, this is incredible. In the very passage that asks the question of human significance to God, we find buried within it, a prophecy of the coming Messiah as if God purposefully answers the question by pointing to Jesus.

If the atheist is right and there is no God or there is one, but we are insignificant to Him, then there is no meaning or significance to our lives. Family, career, health, pleasure, knowledge all vanish with death. Even if one looks to secure a legacy and prolong their existence through the memory of others or contribution to society, in relation to the vastness of time, it is still just a vapor. When the sun burns out and life here ceases to exist, it will be as if we never existed and all that we did to build a significance for ourselves in this life before our passing will have vanished away.

If however this is God in Psalms 8 answering the question of our significance to Him, then not only should we find in Jesus, the God we long for, full of grace, truth, love and compassion, but we should also find a meaningful expounding on the answer to our significance to God in a way that we can apply to our lives.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus had purpose and significance that originated in the will of His Father. Jesus didn’t get mad at His Father and say, “why God? Why do you allow death and suffering? You are so cold and distant; I want nothing to do with you!”

One of the great questions that Jesus’ life answers is that the value and significance of one’s life is not determined by the insignificance that we perceive in relation to our standing in society or within the universe or the pain and suffering that we endure. In human terms, if we went back in time and looked at Jesus we would see what we would normally categorize in the human sense as complete insignificance and a lost cause. He was someone hated by the ruling authorities, he had no life, no wife, no children, no home and no career. In the end, virtually everyone abandoned him and he died one of the most awful deaths imaginable.

Deep in the human psyche this is perhaps our greatest fear. Not the fear of the physical pain of death necessarily, but the fear of losing that which gives us meaning, value and significance. This brings us to the greatest question of all that is answered in the life of Jesus. The New Testament states plainly that God himself became a man and died a horrible death because He loves you and me more than we can possibly imagine. It might be tempting to devalue His love for us as an individual by saying that He died for all mankind and not us as individuals, but to paraphrase the atheist I heard the other day, there is no reason to look at humanity, let alone our existence as individuals in relation to the vastness of the universe and draw the conclusion that we matter at all to God, or as I argued above, that we should.

One thing is for certain. When all is said and done, the only thing that truly matters is what matters to God. If you believe Jesus is who He said He is, then you believe that you matter enough to God for Him to come down as a man and die on the cross for you to bring you into eternal relationship with Him.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. – Colossians 1:15-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Grace that is greater than our helplessness

Last night my 7 year old daughter broke her arm while playing with her older sister jumping off the bed. Displaced and overriding which means bad pain, will have to have surgery, a plate and screws.

The laughter I am used to hearing has been replaced by regular cries of intense pain despite pain medication.

During our six hour trip back and forth to the ER last night I began to have strange thoughts.

If only someone could come in with a sledge hammer and break my wrist to trade for her broken wrist.

Also thoughts of praying I don’t outlive any of my children like my grandmother has outlived two of her three children.

In the midst of this helpless feeling as a parent, something from within said “this is how God feels, but He was not helpless to do anything.”

I don’t know I will ever understand the depth of the divide that stood between God and mankind. What I do know is sin is no longer an issue. Whatever stood between us and God, Jesus took care of it. When we point to our inadequacy and say, “but God you don’t understand the depth of my sin” God points to the cross and says, “oh no my child, you don’t understand the depth of my love, there is nothing that will ever separate you from me, it is paid for.”

I’m a helpless parent at the moment and that helplessness would condemn me for not being able to magically take my daughter’s pain away, but I find a sustaining comfort despite the tears because I know God is indeed love. A love far deeper than I can comprehend.

Feet washing

There’s a family friend, mentor, evangelist friend of mine who has been on my mind this evening while contemplating writing this. He has spent years traveling, preaching and singing as well as being an accomplished southern gospel song writer. I have often looked at him and thought he was remarkable. He never seemed to burn out. He has always had a consistency to him that never seemed to waver. Like deep waters that, despite what comes his way, he never seems to get overwhelmed. I’m sure he has a number of faults, but his have never been very noticeable. In short, he’s been someone I’ve always looked up to a great deal. Not tremendously well known, no great fanfare upon his arrival, no one beating down his door to know his insights on spiritual matters like TV evangelists experience. Yet often when I have had a question, I knew I could go to him and find an answer that was full of grace and truth.

I have long been someone quite opposite to him however. Erratic, impulsive, on the mountain one minute and deep in the valley the next. As for sin, well I’ve committed more than my share with wild tendencies that tend to go with having a high and low mentality.

Yet when I have spent time with my evangelist friend for any length of time, it was always peaceful. The troubled waters of my soul would calm to a still and if I spent very long, I would begin to feel a sense of the calming awareness of God’s love in increasing measure.

One time almost 15 years ago now, I was riding with him to several of his church meetings that he was speaking at. We passed a sign on the freeway that said… “don’t make me come down there” signed God. He bristled and said, “did you see that sign?”

I said yes.

He then said after reading it, it made him want to put a sign under it that read, “oh but He already did.”

At the time I didn’t realize the significance of what he was saying. In fact he would often say things I didn’t get until later on.

When Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ came out, he told me the part that got to him most was when Jesus washed the disciples feet. I thought at the time that made sense since he is a minister. I figured it must hold some kind of special significance as a minister, but oh how wrong I was. There was so much more to it.

Yesterday morning during Sunday school at yet another new church, foot washing came up while reading through John. They began talking about Mary washing Jesus’ feet and what the significance was. Now I have read the meaning many times before, but yesterday morning was different. My mind went to Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and suddenly a wave of love came over me that I had not felt in a very long time and a voice from that love spoke to my heart and said, “I will love you, speak to you and have an intimate relationship with you irregardless of what church you attend. Let me tell you, holding back the tears was no easy feat and the feeling of His love in that moment lingered the rest of the day.

Reflecting on the memory later, suddenly I knew why my evangelist friend said the foot washing was the most moving for him in the Passion of Christ movie.

You see, it was usually the servants job to wash the feet of the honored guests because people wore sandals in that time and their feet would become very dirty from walking all day.

You see, when Jesus, the Son of God washed his disciples feet He was essentially saying, you are the honored guest and I am the servant.

Think about that for just a moment. The God of all creation, coming into your presence, you full of sin, frailty and flaws. The rightful and just response would be for you and I to fall prostrate on the floor and beg for mercy with no expectation to receive any. In fact that really is our default response. Christ however does something for us in this that is life changing.

He switches roles. He proclaims you the honored guest and that He will be the servant. In all your sin, in all your frailty, with all your flaws still intact, Jesus, the one without any flaws, kneels down at your feet, washes them, dries them and proclaims you clean.

This also leads to the inevitable question. Will you and I allow the Son of God, worthy of all honor to be our servant, kneel at our feet and wash them even though you and I are worthy of none? Will we let the love of God in Christ melt our hearts?

You see that is where my friend the evangelist gets his resilience. This is the deep living water that flows in His life. It’s not in knowing about the love of God, it’s not even believing in the love of God for the whole world. It is in experiencing the love of God through God’s Son for us who comes to us individually, becomes our servant and washes us clean. It’s my evangelist friend’s profound heart awareness of God’s love for him, not for the world, but for him that he finds the grace to minister as he does. It is a deeply intimate and personal love relationship where God in Christ is the giver and he is a recipient of His grace.

What I have had to realize over and over from talking about God’s love for many years is that it is no replacement for experiencing God’s love. My heart’s desire is, God I want to tell everyone about your love and that desire has crushed me over and over again to the point that at times I would think, I don’t even want to believe anymore, it’s too much, I can’t bear the weight of the world, I can’t throw my arms around the world, the weight is too much, and indeed it is. In fact only one could ever carry it and did so perfectly. And that is God’s desire for me. Not to know that God loves the world or Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, but to continually know how much He, in Christ, loves me.

I’ll end this post by sharing a video of a song my evangelist friend wrote.

On a personal note: Thanks for keeping your eyes on Jesus Bill Burns. In doing so, God has made you a reflection of his grace that I have seen in the love you find in Him for you.

Thanks for reading.

“Ships Passing in the Night” – Poem

Merchant’s moon mirror white
Amber glow of distant light
“we’re not alone” whispered the sailors respite.
Neath the blanket of the stillness of ships passing in the night.

There’s a movement there’s a heartbeat, a new life has begun,
ever growing ever learning, ever moving on,
There’s a tearful parting as daughter becomes bride, one moment there and then she’s gone like ships passing in the night

Winters dream nestled in a wooden cedar chest
Heart’s refrain, loss and gain, love’s labor and it’s rest
beauty and ashes, bitter sweet, and she offers a reply, that’s just the way it goes, such is life like ships passing in the night

life long funeral procession, as expectation passes away, and the hearts deceitful mourning robs us of another day, yet thoughts of us number more than all the sand on oceanside, not far from each of us sojourning strangers, ships passing in the night

My thoughts on “The Unforgettable Fire”

I am an extremely loyal and faithful U2 fan. However, I imagine even the most loyal and faithful of us probably know of a few songs of theirs that we just don’t care for. This may surprise and shock some, but this song, “The Unforgettable Fire” has fallen into that category for me over the years.

The music of this song is rather dark and depressing to me. At the same time, it has grown on me in an unusual way. Listening to this song for me is somewhat like watching a car wreck and realizing I am the one in the car wreck.

I have read that the inspiration for this song came when the members of U2 were viewing pictures of Japan in the aftermath of the atomic explosions and that Bono said that is what inspired him, however reviews I have seen claim that the words don’t seem to make much sense in that regard and tend to be all over the place.

So what was Bono thinking when he wrote this song? Why write a song so dark and what did it mean to Bono? I went to a U2 concert in Norman in 2009 on their 360 tour and was surprised to see that they still sing this song. Whatever the meaning, it must still stir Bono deeply to keep it in their song lineup after all these years.

Here are my thoughts on the song…

(comments interspersed between the lyrics)

Ice
Your only rivers run cold

Having just finished reading several Robert Frost poems for a class here recently, I suspect that Bono might have been borrowing or paying tribute to him in this line. If he did indeed write this song thinking of the victims in Japan, it might be him speaking to those who died. For those who know some history of WWII, the Japanese people themselves were not really so much to blame for the war. They were very much a naive and loyal people under the rule of a government that kept the truth from them and used propaganda along with national pride to manipulate them into support. While I believe the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in WWII did save more lives than it cost, it is still tragic that the common people paid the brunt of the price of the maniacal dictating of their leaders.

These city lights
They shine as silver and gold

When I hear this line I think of our cities. As if Bono has in one instance spoken to the past and is now speaking to the present. It makes me feel this when I hear the song, however, looking at it more objectively, perhaps he was eluding to the beauty the people of Japan saw in their cities before the bombs fell.

Dug from the night
Your eyes as black as coal

The way these words are painted, I can’t help but see the aftermath of the explosion and the darkness of the reality the people of Japan must have experienced. Their leaders insisted they would win the war and that the war was just. Not only was it dark in the sense of death and loss, and dark in the sense of destruction, but I can only imagine the disillusionment the survivors must have felt at the reality of the cause their country had been fighting for and they had believed so strongly in being all but lost.

Walk on by
Walk on through
Walk ’til you run
And don’t look back
For here I am

To me this is a plea by Bono to not look at the darkness and destruction. To walk in faith, though they would probably not have seen any hope.

Carnival
The wheels fly and the colors spin
Through alcohol
Red wine that punctures the skin
Face to face
In a dry and waterless place

To me this is speaking of trying to escape the reality of the sadness and despair of a situation or of life itself. Probably everyone of us has known or perhaps has even been someone who tried to escape reality through a drug like alcohol. Carnivals are in a way an escape from the everyday humdrum of life. He intertwines these two things together to paint a picture that so many of us can relate to. A sense of despair and the momentary escape that allows us to forget it.

Walk on by
Walk on through
So sad to beseige your love so head on

Here again, Bono pleads to walk on through, to have faith, to believe. The bombs surely must have hit the common people living in Japan head on. No one in the world had ever seen destruction in such magnitude happen in just moments before their eyes, with the exception of something like an Atlantis event. One moment they are going about their day, some even playing with their children outside, and the next moment death envelopes everything.

Stay this time
Stay tonight in a lie
I’m only asking but I…
I think you know
Come on take me away
Come on take me away
Come on take me home
Home again

Here Bono combines faith, despair and escape together. He is showing his own cracks here in this line. He too struggles to see the hope. He paints the picture of an invitation to a lover to give in to their passion. It is a wanting to find one’s way back out of the darkness, but since it can’t be seen or found, taking the next best thing and escaping into that which perhaps most closely resembles it.

And if the mountain should crumble
Or disappear into the sea
Not a tear, no not I

Here a tribute to the classic song “Stand By Me.” He sang “Stand By Me” in the concert I attended in 2009. This combines the invitation in the previous line with a glimmer of relief, a feeling that as long as he has a true friend, he can face even the darkness of what looks like the end of the world.

Stay in this time
Stay tonight in a lie
Ever after, this love in time
And if you save your love
Save it all

This last line to me is the most intriguing in the song. “If you save your love, save it all.”

The way it reads, it is as if he is saying it bitterly, but in the song itself, it is the most positive moment musically that quickly fades to a dark minor sound. Given the deep spiritual and Christian influence in U2’s music, I suspect this could possibly be a reference to the promise of everlasting life and Jesus’ statements in the Gospels about how if you love your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for His sake or the Gospel’s sake, you will find it. In other words, believe in eternal life after death without any reservation and let go of this life as Jesus and the Christian martyrs did.

Don’t push me too far
Don’t push me too far
Tonight
Tonight
Tonight…

Here Bono quickly moves from the last euphoric thought back to the reality of this world and how he is vulnerable to the tragedy in it that his faith not only does not shield him from, but intensifies. It is a plea for an end to the heartache and despair in this life both personally and in a universal sense which he rightly feels are both intertwined.

In summary: This song was released in the mid 1980’s while the U.S. and the Soviet Union were at the height of the cold war. People on both sides felt the end of everything was imminent. I remember as a child having nightmares of nuclear explosions and the end of all human life. Every time an Emergency Broadcast system test was conducted, everyone held their breath for the first few seconds until they knew it was a test. I vaguely remember a few of those EBS test moments as a child. A friend of mine says he still has anxiety attacks to this day when the EBS tests are ran because back then he worked at a radio station and it felt like the end could be at any moment. Bono, while viewing the pictures of the victims of the atomic blasts in Japan from WWII must have felt an intertwined, inevitable reality between the people of Japan and what everyone else at that time felt would be the eventual outcome; that we would all suffer their same fate.

While the threat of an inevitable nuclear holocaust has long since past, this song has taken on a new meaning I think; one that is even more universal and more spiritual. While we no longer face worldwide death at any moment via nuclear holocaust, the reality that we still struggle with is that we all still face uncertainty, death and loss. This song was written at a very tense period for the world , about a very dark time in a people’s history. It speaks to faith in the midst of despair and a walking together even as we each struggle with the reality and consequences of suffering and loss that stand in each of our futures; whether it be the loss of loved ones or the loss of our own lives bringing a separation from those we love in this life. To me Bono bared his soul even more so than usual in this song. He shares his feelings of despair along with the faith that he clings to. He acknowledges the fragility of life and the love that is found or lost in our personal relationships and in our humanity and compassion or lack of it.