“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

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.

“Dad overboard!”

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.

15 thoughts on ““I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

  1. That album holds so many memories for me too, Matthew. When I look back at the faith drenched words of all their music it amazes me that no one caught on. Those guys are revolutionaries.

    As for that limp, yes. This is what keeps us straining toward Him, leaning in when we can no longer stand. Parenting has a special limp all its own, I think. I have two boys, two years apart. I remember those days. What I wouldn’t give to trade the worries I have for them now at age 12 and 14 for the worries then. How wise of you to enjoy them right now.

    • Maybe our limps, over time, are all destined toward the path of paralysis — unless we learn to surrender along he way. I know the worries will soon grow heavier. I need to remember that lesson as I lean on my cane.

      Thanks for your rich comment. And, of course, it’s always grand to meet a soul-ish friend of the band. “Rejoice” indeed …

  2. The mystery of God who is everywhere and yet nowhere and suddenly asserts Himself amid Legos, U2, and snot, is a helpful reminder and perspective that He may also come by my desert. Helpful, Encouraging. Thanks. Gary

  3. Kyle and I love the lego U2! It’s good to know that you found the picture somewhere or Henry and James legos may have been raided :)

  4. You’ll have to revisit my blog post! I found the most perfect picture tonight, and then I put them side by side. I think Kyle will dig it. And regarding my blogging truancy, I was getting a little worried myself. I was finding it difficult to get the time and mental space that I needed. And then I started sinking into a pit. No fun. Love to all of you guys!

  5. Thanks for posting again – I was beginning to worry about you. Of course I showed this one to Kyle. He thinks your gift for crafting words is a little scary. He also has some new U2 stories to share with you. We love you. Share lots of hugs with your sweeties for us.

  6. I believe it’s about perspective. Sometimes we need a bit of distance or a new posture within the circumstance to see the Spirit’s calling. Pointy blocks and loud noise all can ‘move’ us closer to the place of the tree, to a place of surrender. Less of our voice and more of his.
    Gotta love it when the change in posture is prompted by something as easy as music- Turn the volume up and play it again! Much more to my liking than some other things He’s had to use to gain my attention.
    As always, it’s great to see you expressing your gifts. Blessings, as you share with those who can realate and validate that we are not alone. Grab your buddy and make the trip, leave the GPS, and embark on the adventure. Shelley

  7. Inspired writing comes from the holder of the pen in order to give light, shape and anchor to the thoughts and feelings that resonate within others who have not a pen to either draw or write what they know is within. The result is in sharing a truth that we might embrace the message He is singing within us through His spirit. The journey not simple nor the expression of it. Thank you for bringing story and form to what we feel, in a real and tangible way.

    Finding a partner for the adventure trecks that await sounds like the right ticket. Those who seek are in for the ride of a lifetime — sit in the front car on the coaster, the view is the best there.

    • Beautifully put. Thank you for your words of affirmation. They mean a lot. And, yes, The Spirit is at work in us and speaking truth through our experiences — from Lego blocks to rock ‘n roll songs. But to hear and see that truth, we need to make room for the Spirit. That’s the struggle — to see and hear — on a daily basis, despite our noisy circumstances! Thanks for taking the time to respond, Shelley!

  8. i think there needs to be a new Facebook Group. “Send Matt Kreider to Joshua Tree National park.” The part of the piece that’s missing is you seeing and hearing how amazing JTN really is. Imagine the setup of the album playing from your rented Hummer (gotta go big Bo-ieee) sitting in the middle of the desert. You can see the smog creeping in the distance… oozing from LA. And you’re in the middle of … wind! road runners! a flapping tent that roars all night! and brilliant beautiful rocks and Joshua Tree National park. they only grow there. And… Matt needs a trip there soon!

    • Yes, I’ve already dreamt about this trip. It would make for a fantastic pilgrimage. However, part of the joy for fans, I think, involved the hunt for the spot. Now, in an age of GPS, somehow the pursuit gets dulled, tainted. At any rate, a Facebook Group dedicated to this sounds so deliciously selfish that I don’t think anyone else would join it! Maybe you and I need to make the trip sometime soon.

  9. Wow – well written! This is still one of my top 5 records, and discovered it at least a decade late. I too sneak an occasional prayer of thanks for the Joshua Tree.

    • The album’s ability to resonate with people, even decades after it’s release, is just one example of its power. As much as the album was a ubiquitous part of popular culture in the 80s, through radio, tv, and magazine, I’m still able to hear it, now, stripped down to its original, earnest intentions. Even that is a feat! Thanks for commenting!

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