FLASHBACK FRIDAYS: WEEK 11 (The Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot)- Why do we ask so many questions, and what does it mean to be truly human?

Let me ask you a question, before we get into this blog. Before I say something deep and meaningful, before I say something inspiring, and something that will hopefully be impacting in your upcoming week or the upcoming month, the upcoming year, or even the rest of your life. Do you reckon, that as a society, we ask too many questions? I mean let’s be pragmatic, and let’s think about it.

When we wake up, we ask the nearest person (which most likely is mum or dad if we still live at home, or our best friend if we’re living in an apartment) what’s for breakfast, knowing that the answer will be cereal or leftovers (from last night or even last week), or a muesli bar or even a protein shake. When we’re at work, we ask for help from our colleagues due to the seemingly unreasonable expectations and deadlines placed on us by our boss, and this plea can have a helpful result (promotion and/or pay rise) or a detrimental one (aka, we miss our deadline, and are given the work to do over the weekend at home). When we’re stuck in traffic on the long drive home, we earnestly wind down the windows and ask the guy in front to stop daydreaming and turn left or right or drive straight, because the light has just changed from red to green (and again, a possible result could be our face being broken by a heavy punch). We ask ‘what’s for dinner?’ to the first person we see, the instant we get home (not ‘how’s your day?’ like a normal person), and when there’s a curfew time, we ask whether we can stay up longer. We ask for money from our parents when we believe we’re ‘poor’ and we ask for opinions on clothes to wear for a potential and promising date, but sometimes we ask our guy friends or girl friends, and they’re no hope at all, as we’re probably going to receive all kinds of feedback, and each one of them conflicting with each other.

Now, do you believe me, when I say that on any given day, we ask a lot of questions, to a lot of people, ranging from superficial topics to deep ones? How many questions do you think we ask per day? Thousands I reckon, without even realising it. Questions to some of the most basic things (some of which I listed in the above paragraph, and of which most have a simple answer), and yet also questions where most of humanity is stumped, and for those type of questions, there are many types of answers, depending on how deep you go. Questions like what’s the meaning of life, did the world really form in 6 days, what happens after I die, how old is the Earth, how much of the Bible to take literally and how much to take metaphorically, how do I love my enemy, and should I; also questions like how do I tell my child that Santa Claus isn’t real, why is there suffering in the world, how do I know when I am truly in love with someone, how do I find happiness and peace, where does my worth and value lie in, what must I do to live a successful and happy life, what is my passion, why isn’t my life turning out the way I want it to, why is my plan unravelling, when I’m invisible, how do I become known; God why don’t you hear me, God why don’t you heal me, God why didn’t you do something, God what is the answer to everything I’m searching for, God show me the way… and so on, and so on, and so on.

Most of the day to day questions we voice out loud frequently to anyone who listen, and we don’t even expect an answer back. Some of the heavy questions we may discuss over coffee and a meal with a close friend, and dialogue through some of our deep concerns and fears about certain aspects of our lives. Yet when we examine our heart, and when we look at ourselves in the mirror, I think we all need to admit something. That the questions we desperately and most want the answers to, are the questions we are afraid to tell the world about in fear of rejection, the questions we’re afraid to tell our friends and family about. The questions that only exist in our head for a fleeting moment in time just before we go to sleep, as we are lying down in our beds, analysing the day, and worrying about our future, which can be and more often than not is, downright scary. It’s these questions that only God knows, yet for some reason we don’t bring our troubles to Him more times than we should, myself included in this statement.

I mean, I know in my head that every fear and worry and concern and can and should bring it to Jesus- because I see that verse every day when I go to sleep and when I wake up, as it’s printed on a sheet of paper on my wall. Philippians 4:6-7 says Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. So I guess that kinda means to give over to God our every request. There’s nothing too big or too small for God to handle. We can curse, rage at Him, questions His very existence, question the whole meaning of life, the whole purpose of the planet, and air our hate of the church, of Christians, of politicians; we can rant for an entire hour at God, and then He can still work it all out for us. In his timing mind you, but He still has a plan, a plan far greater than our own. So why don’t we? Why are we still anxious, why do we air the questions that ultimately do not matter and sidestep and keep inside the very questions that the whole world agrees upon the very fact that these particular questions do matter? Stuff to ponder about, yeah I know…

I don’t know why we think we can do things on our own when we clearly can’t. When we need a support system, and people who love us in our corner. Maybe we see breaking down and admitting that we have questions and insecurities as a weakness. And maybe we, in some twisted way, think that by overcompensating and asking the ‘superfluous’ questions, we can ignore the questions that keep us up and night, the ones that rob us of our sleep. But they’re always going to be there. Even if we stuff down the pain and the hurt, in some way, our unanswered questions will always resurface somehow someday.

Take myself for example. I’ve been thinking lately about the future and the things I want to do beyond the café, and shudder to think beyond this website. Maybe it is songwriting and singing that I’ve recently discovered that I have a passion for (an ability, well that’s debatable), or maybe it is something else. Regardless, at other times, I run away from my thoughts and questions about the future, because it is scary, and unknown, and sometimes I think that perhaps if I think about songwriting and music too hard, then I’m living in a fantasy land and not being grounded in reality. Maybe I should live in the present, and it’s then I start binge watching TV shows that at the end of it all serve little to no purpose in the sense that it’s not going to help me make a future. And maybe it’s true that at times my head is in the clouds, and at other times my head is in the sand.

But the other day, I heard something on the radio, that it makes me glad that I’ve been pondering the future more and more lately, and actually encourages me to give my future over to God, and not worry that things won’t work out. On my local radio station Hope 103.2 that I usually listen to (which I mostly love), this week the presenters spoke about bromarks, which are book marks with photos of the brekky announcers’ faces on them, supposedly encouraging us all to read books. The bromarks are supposed to create excitement that reading is fun, and I kid you not, all week this topic has been on the radio maybe around 30 minutes every week day of the 3 hour morning breakfast show shift. It’s somewhat funny, somewhat cringeworthy and all the time stupid (sorry Sam and Duncan!), and the fact that this has been given 30 minutes every day air time, then maybe something is wrong and we are asking the wrong questions. We know the reason why we ask questions, and that’s cause we’re curious, and we have things in our head that we need to get out, but maybe we’re being like sheep and asking the same questions over and over again because we don’t know how to ask the hard questions, or we think we won’t be heard if we’re challenging the status quo, or we think our voice isn’t important. So let me ask you all a question. If we’re asking the same questions over and over again, getting the same answers, and still aren’t satisfied; are we still living as humans? Or as ‘robots’?

Human. It’s an interesting concept. We all are humans. We each have two hands, two feet, two eyes, one mouth, two ears, and everything else each person has, and despite all of our differences, if we cut ourselves, we all bleed. So why are we afraid of voicing our opinions, and instead settle for just accepting what we see in front of us, or what is told by our friends and parents? The other day I was watching an episode of one of my favourite shows Legends Of Tomorrow, and in it (Spoilers!)- , a major character discovers she is a clone, has a major breakdown, and…the true ramifications of this shock reveal will be further explored next season. But what I learnt from it is that prior to the knowledge of the clone reveal, this character was acting like any other human, with feelings, emotions and real opinions. These days, in real life, some of us are less human than that, how ironic, right! God our Father made us in His image, and as humans, we are supposed to question our existence, our meaning, our purpose, and everything else, but we also are supposed to voice our opinions to those who love and understand us, regardless how farfetched and how outlandish they are. While the easy fix would be to listen to some Christian music and let some songs give you the answer to some of life’s toughest and hardest questions, sometimes it’s more complicated than that. When you’re stuck in confusion and when you don’t have an answer to a pertinent question, and nothing ‘Christian’ can soothe your conscience, what then? Is there a song that can bring us closer to the answers we seek?

Switchfoot, fronted by Jon Foreman, need no introduction. If you want to know more about them, then check out their Wikpedia page, but let me just say that I reckon Jon Foreman is one of the most prolific songwriters ever. And I mean ever! I know it’s only an opinion, but truly, you should listen to the band’s music. And what is remarkable about the band, is that even though all the members are Christians, they make an effort to try to not to let their faith limit their niche market. Their market is for all people, and their music is reflected as such, meaning that you probably are more likely to resonate with a Switchfoot song rather than a song by Chris Tomlin or Casting Crowns (even though these artists are enjoyable and impacting also!), simply because we as humans go through lots more life struggles that aren’t particularly to do with Christianity, especially those who don’t yet believe in Jesus. Switchoot, if you will, are a band for all walks of faith, and that’s what I admire about them, as they still unashamedly wear their heart on their sleeve, still say in concerts that they believe in God, but do not preach the ‘turn and burn’ sermon, and are more sensitive to people’s needs, where they are at. Guaranteed, if you have a question, then I would say that if you listen to a Switchfoot album, then some of your questions will be answered, even if the band themselves pose more questions.

So…here I go again, writing a lot, even without speaking about the album I would like to say that has impacted me in my life. So, once again, I will briefly touch upon this album, and then I’ll give the floor over to you guys. The Beautiful Letdown is 15 years old and still is my favourite Switchfoot album ever (especially songs like “Meant To Live”, “This Is Your Life”, “Dare You To Move” and “More Than Fine”). If you haven’t heard these songs, then never fear, as there’s a playlist below. But if you’re wondering about whether you should stand out from the crowd or follow peer pressure; or if you are wondering about if there’s more to life than the mundane (and any other existential query you may have); then Switchfoot is the right band to listen to, and The Beautiful Letdown is the right album to listen to. You may have a ton more questions that Switchfoot won’t answer, and that’s ok, because with Switchfoot, a band asking questions back at us, it reminds us that even our heroes, even the guys we look up to, are fallable, are humans also. We all have questions to ask, and maybe before we ask God, sometimes, in some situations, we need to dialogue it amongst His creation first. So let’s dive in, and see what Jon and his friends have to say, 15 years later, that still rings true today.

What is the one question that keep you up and night? How about I challenge you all to ask that question to your friends and family, and let me know that outcome! Next week, I will revisit this topic of questions, and of what truly makes us human (which I haven’t fully finished unpacking!) on the next Flashback Fridays post (and maybe the next several!), and I’ll be more specific, so stay tuned for that. Anyway, in what way does Switchfoot or The Beautiful Letdown challenges you in how you live, and live with the intention of getting answers for your questions?

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