Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Ode to Chin

This song title is apparently written for a friend of theirs when they were younger, named Willis Chin. I’m sure we could speculate much more about this song, the title, and other things we’d never really know unless we sat down with the band. But that’s not the point of some songs, and I think this song fits in that category, of having a deeper and more liberal meaning (liberal meaning generous, not politically liberal). It’s a great song with questions we’d all be better for if we spent time intentionally answering them in our own lives. Here’s the lyrics:

What’s your direction?
Tell me what’s wrong, tell me what’s right
What’s your direction?
Think about somebody else for the night
Life’s more than girls
God’s more than words
You’re more than this
So what’s your direction?
And where are you now?

Grow, grow where you are
Anchor your roots underneath
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs

What’s your direction?
What matters most?
What should you know?
What’s your direction
All that you’ve been
Makes who you are now
‘Cause I’ve been ashamed
I’ve been a fool
You know I’ve backed down
When I lose direction I pray to be found

Grow, grow where you are
Anchor your roots underneath
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs

Now some would read this song and question the health of telling someone to “grow where you are,” especially if you are planted in bad soil, or in a place with little sun and water is scarce. Growth won’t happen there. I agree. To me, this song is challenging us to root ourselves. Be known. Don’t close off and isolate yourself. To grow is to be planted and rooted. In a culture where transient people and communities aren’t rare, rooting yourself somewhere is one of the ways we are going to get back to communal life that is restorative and actually makes a difference in a local context. Healthy global change can never happen if we never focus locally. 

Be who you are locally, today. Wrestle out what you believe and what matters most in life. Think critically. Challenge what you do and ask why you do it. Understand what shapes you and how your habits are formed. Culture is not neutral in the sense that it is shaping people and communities all the time. Beliefs and exposed in marketing, grocery shopping, and church going or not. We are always being shaped.

What are you being shaped by? What’s forming your habits and thoughts? Who you running with? Who knows you? Who should know you? Who do you know? The doubts you have…. doubt them and be honest about your doubts. The beliefs you have… believe them and don’t be ashamed of those beliefs. To be a good friend is not to agree about everything. It’s to be who you really are and being honest about that. The best, most intimate friendships are those who are honest with who they are now and the beliefs and doubts they have, even about each other.

Jean Vanier (Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian, author, and founder of L’Arche Communities) has some of the best thoughts on community, belonging, being known, and knowing. “Community is the breaking down of barriers to welcome difference.” Community and Growth, 20. Barriers are built when we are not honest about our doubts and beliefs. Barriers are built when we are not sure of who we are and pretense settles in. Barriers are built when we never plant or root ourselves because we are never able to be truly known.

This is difficult stuff. Stuff I struggle with all the time, but I’m committed to wrestling it out. Believing what I believe about God, the gospel, life, and sin without shame. Doubting elements of truth that have been shaped more by my own interpretation or other people’s interpretation of a truth. Doubting interpretations of truth is not saying there is not truth… but it is embracing that many truths are twisted and construed throughout history, and getting back to the root of many truths takes much doubting and at the end, an embracing of mystery and faith.

So what’s your direction? What matters most to you? What are you willing to die for? Where have you lost your direction? Wherever you are, you can ask to be found, and you will be found.

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