This is another of the “Oxford Collection”, written between the years of 2004-2006. This song (like a few others) grapples with the impression that somehow, the idea of the eternal has been smuggled into our hearts, and how this idea has translated into the relationships we pursue, the art we create, and even the seemingly smaller choices we make every day. C.S. Lewis devotes more than a few pages of his writing to this scheme which proposes that our desires have a useful way of pointing to a reality. We experience hunger, which tells us that food will satisfy us. We are thirsty, and know that a good drink of water should do the trick. We have an ache inside of us for love and unending life– well, that is simply because we were meant to be in love forever. The desire makes sense when we consider how it fits the reality. The desire, however, does not constitute the whole of reality, and this is something we’ve got quite upside down these days. There is a rather fierce opinion going around that if I satisfy this one craving, this one restlessness, this one impulse – then I shall know who I really am and where all the arrows in my life have been pointing me towards.
But we have grown poor at target practice and our arrows are lying all over the ground, like abandoned party favors at a five year old’s birthday celebration…but if you know where this post is going, you’ll know that I mean the arrows to represent something a little more significant than cheap gifts handed out at a party. The point is, we often mistake the arrow for the target, while the bold red and white circle, which may have once commanded our attention, merely sits there, unbothered by the arrows that go swishing by.
Families, churches and leaders should be working to build up a culture which educates the next generation (and, while we’re at it, every other generation) about all the good and lasting realities we should be aiming for. Instead, they often hand us more arrows to shoot aimlessly (at anywhere besides the Right Target) and praise us for boldly committing ourselves to The Thing We’re Sure Will Make Us Happy. CS Lewis writes, in The Joyful Christian: “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you will get neither.”
The first few lines of the song are meant to juxtapose one element of the human condition with what faith in Christ has offered each of us. I’m lonely: well, I’m not alone. I’m exhausted: well, He’s with me in my exhaustion. My heart has been hardened by sin: well, He’s there to take away my heart of stone and give me one of flesh (but I must remember to ask Him to do so…He is curious like that – almost as though He’s waiting for our permission to heal us completely).
The chorus is full of questions…where does this strange desire for immortality come from? And who is the author behind every single one of those stories which ends happily? Especially when it’s so clear that many real-life stories do not offer endings which would make for very cheerful bedtime reading. But not too many children want to hear the one about the princess who wasted away in a cold, dark tower after the brave knight (and would-be hero) ended up as a dragon’s afternoon snack. There is a reason why the happy ending (as elusive as it may feel at times) has a certain ring of realism about it. It is because we are wired for something more than surviving one day at a time (even a slow-witted porcupine can aspire to that). We have a sense that our lives should stretch on (how we grieve when they are cut short!), and that these extraordinarily long lives should be full of opportunities to live well (in peace, love, etc). Our existential desires are the fabric of life’s biggest questions. If the answer is not here, it is somewhere. And if the answer does not lie with us, it must abide in Someone.