Belief and the Beatles. January 23, 2011
I was a sophomore in high school when I became a music snob.
There was a guy, John, in my English class that I knew but didn’t really know, you know? You know. One day, out of the blue, he got my number from the class list and called me. He thought we should be friends. We started talking and the conversation quickly came around to music. Favorite bands, favorite songs, stuff we hated. I had recently been gifted the entire Beatles Anthology and was eager to discuss it. We awkwardly talked about how, like, so totally awesome the Beatles are and shared our favorite songs. His was “Strawberry Fields”. Mine was “Yesterday”.
Then it got interesting. Instead of continuing to be an awkward 16-year-old boy fumbling his way through a conversation with a girl he liked, he shifted into teaching mode. He refused to believe that “Yesterday” was really my favorite Beatles song. He told me that I was being a lazy listener, and that I needed to look deeper than the surface and find songs that spoke to me. “Everybody likes ‘Yesterday’”, he told me. “Find the song that’s yours.”
Pretty wise stuff from a dorky high school kid. I don’t remember much else about him, but I really took our conversation that night to heart. I didn’t want to be a lazy listener. So I listened to all the Beatles music I could get my hands on. Over and over and over. I learned that I liked the later Beatles better than the earlier, and that I liked the ones with the crazy lyrics. I discovered songs like “Across the Universe” and “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Something”. I found the songs that were mine.
His advice that night has carried over into other parts of my life, too, particularly my faith. I developed (what I hope is) a healthy skepticism toward the easy. I never wanted to believe something just because someone told me that was how it worked. The problem with operating that way, though, it that it takes work. Paying attention is hard.
But I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. We’re meant to dig deep and search and ask questions. Not because we’re working towards a goal of having all the answers and finally figuring it out but because the journey IS the goal. God honors the questioner and the process of questioning. I’m learning to believe that if we were just meant to glean the highlights and easily define what it means to be a follower of Jesus, then we wouldn’t have the book we have with all its different writers and crazy narratives and confusing contradictions. If it was about finding the right answers, we wouldn’t have a book at all, we’d have a pamphlet. Maybe with some bullet points.
In The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, David Dark puts it like this:
We should take advantage of every chance we have to lose our religion. As wonderful as our religion might feel, it’s never so fresh that we should settle for it. A living religiosity will be sustained by questions, revelations, and a determination to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
We are called to be active participants in our faith, not to sit and watch and consume. Called to make room for new ideas and fresh revelations and challenging people. If we let our beliefs get so set in stone that they can’t be broken, we miss out on something beautiful. We were created with brains and intellect and reasoning skills, and we don’t have to let them go unused. The questions are what cracks our hard hearts and shallow faith. And the cracks are how the light gets in.
So thanks, John Judy, wherever you are. Thanks for taking a chance, thanks for “Only a Northern Song”, and thanks for teaching me to pay attention.
(This post can also be found on GracePointe Conversations, our church’s new blog site. You should read it. There’s lots from Aaron and he’s a smart one.)