Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Underwater

Following along Switchfoot’s first album, the third song on The Legend of Chin (1997) is the song “Underwater”. I think the song speaks for itself, if you pay attention to it when you listen (or read it):

It’s in her head
It’s in her mind
She can’t believe it
Can’t believe she’s running
Out of time

And any hold
That she can find
Something to lean on
Everybody fails her
Half the time

Nothing to be
She’s already been
Plenty of time
Plenty of time
Plenty of time

She lights her candle
6 a.m.
Starting a new one
Every new one hits her
Just the same

Just like clockwork
She climbs down
Into her bottle
No one down there cares
To know her name

She’s underwater
Nowhere now
Underwater upside down
The rising tide won’t
Find her now
She’s lost and found
Underwater

She’s underwater
But she won’t drown
She can’t believe it
And every one she meets
Feels just the same

It takes all day to
Get to tonight
What makes the sunset
And what makes it go back
To where it came

She’s underwater
Nowhere now
She’s underwater
Upside down
The rising tide won’t
Find her now
She’s lost and found
Now she’s upside down
Now she’s six feet down

Underwater

We live in a fast paced world, with people working night and day just to get by, to make a buck, or maybe even find some happiness in this existence. Everyone’s “running out of time,” and there’s not enough hours left in the day… that is, until you’ve been consumed and spit out by the system that eats up dreams, and women, and families, and husbands. There’s not enough time, until you realize, what you’re “running” in can’t be trusted, neither can the people you’re “running” with. We all fail each other, and each time it happens, it still hurts… and no matter who you run to or where you go, the problems are still the same.

So you wait all day just to get to the night, or that place of escape for yourself. In this story it’s the bottle, drowning her pain and lostness by a chemical that gets to her head. We know this story all too well, but what we don’t know, is that we all have a “bottle” we run, that numbs us from feeling, from living truly, that masks us from reality. I know this is true, because we live in a world of too much pain and loss, how could we possibly live in reality everyday. Genocide is happening today. 10’s of thousands of children are dying today. Right now there’s a child being sexually abused, a woman being raped, a man or woman cheating on their spouse, a kid getting bullied at school, a suicide bomber making plotting his next heroic move, a little girl being sold in slavery, families being forced from their country being torn from their loved one. We all live at a certain level of numbness to make it in this life.

The lady in “Underwater” represents the problem of modern humanity. When nothing is sacred anymore, all is consumed, no matter how hard you try not to be, so we are all addicts struggling not to be controlled.

At the core, the drug addict isn’t running to drugs because he made a series of bad decisions. He runs to them because they have become the one thing that can provide relief from pain, pleasure, and an escape.

At the core, the porn addict doesn’t run to the computer screen or the bookstore because he/she has let his mind go too far. He runs to it because it’s giving him something that relieves him from the lack of intimacy, acceptance, and pleasure that this world promised, but failed to deliver.

At the core, the workaholic doesn’t work all the time because he/she is so in love with what she does. She works all the time because it gives her a sense of significance, acceptance, or the right kind of living.

The same can be said about the shopaholic, the Facebook addict, and the one who controls their eating, their relationships, or their children. At the heart of all of these addictions is a deep idol (a wanna be god) that drives us to satisfy “it”, a desire that has convinced us that “this” is the one thing that can fill our deep, empty wells.

As “holy-ones-of God”, our goal is to be addicted to Jesus, craving to live in his truth, which actually harmonizes us with reality. Apart from the reality that is found in Christ Jesus, everything else is a fake-counterfeit-reality, a fraudualent-directionless-desire, that leaves us upside-down-and-inside-out… underwater.

From Addiction to Absolution

At the core, the drug addict isn’t running to drugs because he made a series of bad decisions. He runs to them because they have become the one thing that can provide relief from pain, pleasure, and an escape. At the core, the porn addict doesn’t run to the computer screen or the bookstore because he has let his mind go too far. He runs to it because it is giving him something that relieves him from the lack of intimacy, acceptance, and pleasure. At the core, the workaholic doesn’t work all the time because he is so in love with what he does. He works all the time because it gives him a sense of significance, acceptance, or the right kind of living. The same can be said about the shopaholic, the Facebook addict, and the one who controls their eating. At the heart of all of these addictions is a deep idol that drives us to satisfy it, a desire that has convinced us that “this” is the one thing that can fill our deep, empty well.

For instance, a woman who has become promiscuous with men and has not cared for her own protection or body, is not in love with the thought of being with men. Rather, her deep idol of being wanted, accepted, or worth something (even if for a moment), drives her to do whatever she can to fulfill that need or to get a temporary relief for the night. She doesn’t care for her body because the deep idol of wanting to be loved is controlling her. She will labor to serve this deep idol and make it happy at any cost. The sad thing is, many of us (men especially) don’t see this inner struggle and think that many of these women really want us to take advantage of their physical beauty and please ourselves by using them. That is a different blog for a different day.

To counsel this woman to stop her destructive behavior would be useless. The deep idol knows that even if she stops this behavior for a while, it is still in control  because it has become the ultimate thing in her life. She will just move on to another behavior (that may or may not be as outwardly destructive), but she will be mastered by her deep idol that is driving her to be loved.

So here’s the deal, it is not wrong to want to be loved. We were made with this desire. The desire to want to be loved is God given and is a longing of everyone’s heart. But when we sell ourselves to any and everything so that we can attain “being loved”, we become slaves to “being loved” and will never be satisfied. This is why worship of anything other than God is so destructive, because everything except God can be taken from us. Idols fail 100% of the time. This is why God hates idolatry, not because He’s some angry deity who is always looking to smite the disobedient, but because He knows He is the only “slave master” who can deliver exactly what His slaves need. He’s the only”idol” who will never fail and cannot be taken from us. So when He sees His kids running to things that only bring a moment of satisfaction and ultimate destruction, He hates it!

We see His hatred for it in Deuteronomy 29:16-19 when Moses speaks to the Israelites about their time in the wilderness, just before they enter the promised land: “You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’

Detestable. Beware. Poisonous. Bitter. Stubborn. These are just a few words that stuck out to me when reading this passage. When we serve created things over the Creator, it is detestable to God. We must beware of letting our hearts be drawn to temporary relief, because if we want relief over God Himself, the words poisonous and bitter become words that describe us, and this isn’t what we want. We are just wanting to be loved, accepted, worth something; we just want some pleasure and joy. So behavior change is “out” (not an viable option at this point) because what’s driving our behavior is not God. Affection change is “in” (the only viable option at this point) because God must be our new and first affection so that our behavior can change for good, which is what will actually give us what we want; joy, pleasure, acceptance, love. How? Because when our affections are changed and we desire God, we get God.

This is called absolution or redemption. Not the redemption of our souls, but the kind of absolution I’m talking about is the rehab that needs to take place because of our lives of temporary and selfish pleasures and our misplaced longings of acceptance from created things. Our misplaced affections which has led us to all kinds of addictions has brought alongside of us a trail of pain, destruction, habits, wounds, friends, family and thoughts that all need to redeemed. Remade. Redone. Reprioritized. Redefined.

This work is slow and painful and not for the faint of heart, but it is for everyone. This work is not instant, so if you’re still wanting a quick fix, you’re still serving your deep idol, not Jesus. This work is the kind of work that is done by those who know they need Jesus more than oxygen. This work leads to a life of fruitfulness for God’s kingdom. This work leads to a life that is truly free, and freed to be loved and receive love. This work leads to God looking beautiful, magnificent, powerful and awesome in the life of those who trust Him. Make Jesus look good. Do the work, but don’t go at it alone.