The song fell from the sky like a life-preserver. Not to release me from my environment, but to steady my perspective.
Yesterday I sat among the Lego shards of a primary-colored catastrophe. As two preschool-aged children stumbled and sifted through the ruins, their vulture-like screams blasted across the blocks. Barefoot, Henry stepped on pointy ridges. And victimized, James writhed as his older brother pillaged his stockpile of shiny, glasslike plastic pegs.
Daddy needed a time out. Badly.
Yes, my boys generate lots of noise — and lots of blessing, too. Always preferring the meandering, silly streams of babble, I’m still grateful for the dark undertow of their screaming. Every noise draws me deeper into the gift of their lives. Whether wailing or giggling, they drench my large, father-shaped sponge every day.
But let me be human. Their ghoulish “scream-and-squawk-and-shriek” can sometimes grow so powerful and controlling that the difference between drenched and drowning narrows to one precarious pitch. So after they commandeered my ship yesterday, my wee little Lego pirates found a way to push me across the plank. And because they were enjoying it, I chose to jump.
Of course, because they pealed with more delight than fright, I thought it best to tread water for as long as I could.
Suddenly, though, a slowly chiming guitar arpeggio splashed over my shoulders. Everything went black and white. And desert dry. The Joshua Tree stood before me as a spiritual and living monolith.
Religious people in the Southwest christened the tree with its name because they believed it bore resemblance to the ancient Hebrew leader raising his arms in prayer. Indeed, I have my own strong spiritual associations tethered to this U2 album, dating back to the 1980s.
I’ve always heard a holy wind blowing through its tracks and felt at home in its earnest, restless shaking. I’ve read the actual tree pictured in the cover art has since fallen over, but fans still trek through the Mojave Desert every year to see it. It’s still there, just different.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For” has confused a lot of listeners. On one hand, the lyrics boldly proclaim a deeply rooted and honest faith. But then comes the troubling chorus. Somehow, life’s not so simple. Like Jacob, the listener must wrestle with an angel and then walk away with a limp.
That limp is the gift. Jacob woke up with it every morning. He couldn’t take a step without remembering his need for someone or something on which he could lean. He was drenched in need — and drenched in gift.
And this is parenting. I love it and feel thankful to be so firmly rooted in it. But it’s also backbreaking because it keeps me restless and limping a lot of the time.
So whether I feel surrounded by dust, water, or even snot, I can still lift my flailing arms to God and admit that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
And be blessed — and steadied — by the limp.