The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced that which you thought would deliver the ultimate, and it has just let you down. ~ Ravi Zacharias
I grew up listening to various rock-n-roll musicians, and one of my all-time favorites was U2. They were actually the second live band I had the privilege of seeing as a kid (Aerosmith with Collective Soul was the first, if you were wondering.). And Rage Against the Machine opened for U2!? Oh, the nineties!
Millions have been serenaded by U2 over the past three decades; they have written so many anthems for our modern world. One such example is, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” In it, Bono describes the most existential adventure in any human’s life — the pursuit of happiness, the grand fulfillment. Check it out.
He climbed the highest mountains, ran through fields, crawled, scaled walls, dove into the intoxicating love of a woman, even found Jesus and encountered spiritual beings, but he still had not found what he was looking for…
It is ironic that the freest, most privileged people in human history, those who get to listen and see bands like U2 just because they want to, sing, “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for?”
Bono, like Solomon of old and honestly like most of us in the first-world, lives like a king. We live like kings and we are not people who lack…well, maybe we lack restraint, but you get the picture.
Many, however, in our 21st century world will not eat today. They will not have access to clean water and they will die of curable diseases. And yet in all of our first-world freedom, opportunity, and luxury, somehow we come out believing we’re still the slaves.
Americans, in particular, are known for imbibing all that this world has to offer. We are drunk from our existential pursuits. The predominantly accepted definition for freedom is not by accident:
“Doing what I want, when I want, and how I want.”
Drink in the results from these unnecessary, frenzied nightmares.
Yes, these were extreme examples (if they weren’t true they would have been funny!). And on the outside looking in, it’s very easy to judge these individuals. But honestly, I have very similar expectations and rights that I cling to. I just am better at cloaking and redefining them! And because of this societal indoctrination we call “freedom,” I easily lose focus of my responsibility as I obsess over what I deserve.
The U2 song from above is a contemporary summary of Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. A little different in the detail but absolutely a similar search. Free men, exhausting any and all avenues to grasp a perpetual novelty. And if I’m honest, I can relate.
But are Christians supposed to struggle with finding fulfillment? Isn’t this longing automatically quenched once Jesus enters the picture? Isn’t that how the Church often dismisses people like Solomon? These poor souls just don’t know Jesus, right? Enter my dilemma…
If you have noticed, I have been writing about the topic of “freedom” in the past few weeks (see “Nightmares Are Dreams Too”, “God Freedom?” and “Suck Rocks”).
Two things I have noticed about “freedom”:
- My perception of freedom determines my choices and hence the trajectory of my life.
- My perception of freedom becomes the gold standard in how I assess my life.
Freedom is a worldview issue with very practical implications. Let me provide some brief examples:
A couple weeks ago the Powerball got up to $1.6 billion. If my definition of freedom means no more work, worrying over bills, and basically no limitations in life, then I will be obsessed over money and power. I will only perceive success, happiness, and achievement when I find myself in a workless, worry-less, limitless indulgent existence.
I have struggled with addiction all my life. If my definition of freedom goes beyond an absence of failure to include the absence of temptation, then I will obsess over my weakness since no one escapes “chinks in the armor.” As I reduce my being/identity to a struggle, I will only believe that I am successful if I am perfect (in that particular area or perhaps I will over-compensate in others as I play a weights and measures game).
Problem: Most of us will never be “free” of a need to work, the struggle to pay the bills, or limitations of some type. And most of us will always struggle with addiction (or sin, or the flesh…or whatever else you want to call it), if we’re honest enough to admit it.
This is very bleak and depressing. If this is the paradigm we must embrace, most of humanity has and never will be “free.” If freedom is simply the absence of _________ (you fill in the blank), even men who live like gods in this world are slaves, never finding what they’re looking for.
You may have wondered how I can intertwine the two topics of fulfillment and freedom, but hopefully it’s becoming clear that these two are married to each other. One seems absolutely dependent upon the other. When I’m free, then I will be fulfilled, and when I’m fulfilled, I will bask in ultimate freedom.
So if freedom and fulfillment are married, it is NOT confusing at all to hear an internationally praised, Grammy award-winning band like U2 galvanize the first-world to sing, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
The perceptions of freedom are askewed, and therefore, fulfillment teases the masses like a dangling carrot soon to be dismissed as a child-like dream.
This is why I love the principles of freedom derived from the epic film, “Braveheart” (see “Got Freedom?”)! In that film we are confronted with the following:
Freedom is what I OUGHT to do, not what I WANT to do. These do not have to be mutually exclusive but they may, at times, contradict. Watch “what you’re looking for.”
The inspiration or motive for freedom must not begin or end with myself; it must transcend.
Freedom is not only an individual desire but is to be a communal need; it galvanizes the masses.
Freedom, as any other Christian virtue, cannot be dictated or defined by my circumstances, culture, or feelings. It is timeless, and therefore, it is NOT determined simply by the presence or absence of something.
Don’t accept the societal script. You’re hipsters for a reason! Redefine “freedom” from what has been sold to you by the media. Our very lives (and their quality) depend on it!
If we continue to accept the vapor that our world has to offer, we will constantly be jumping from momentary enchantment to momentary enchantment, leaving each unfulfilling experience in more and more despair. It’s only a matter of time before it catches up.
Enter the crazier and crazier paths we pursue just to feel, but at the same time, numb. Remember Bono’s words in another song, “Until the End of the World”, where he sings: “I was drowning my sorrows, but my sorrows, they learned how to swim.”
I gave this quote recently (see “Suck Rocks”): “The coward dies many times.” I would like to change it here to: “The hopeless die many times.” The soul can only endure so much of not finding what it is looking for.
And in closing, “YOLO” is a lie. You are a being of eternity that can live as much and as often as you want. You only DIE once (“YODO”). In light of this, you don’t have to live for Friday anymore! You can live EVERY day. You don’t need an experience or a changed circumstance to be fulfilled!
More on this next time…
Even though this song never mentions the actual word, “freedom”, it is an anthem of the freed, those awake. It’s here to stay…it will never fade.