Yes, it was
But it was serious schtick. And since we had to move on
quickly, I thought an explanation was fitting. Oh, in case you
weren't there, Tuesday we tracked through
Brandon Heath's new record,
with the artist in our studio, revealing our favorite songs, sharing
our enthusiastic perspectives on them, looking for any opportunity
to get a rise out of Brandon or the audience.
My first favorite was the title cut. So was Carmen's. We decided to
arm-wrestle for it on the air, she emoting her straightforward
enjoyment of the "Oh" moments surrounding the bridge (literal
lyrical "Ohs," a detail that would fly past most of us; not Carmen),
I emitting my professorial perspective on the theological dimensions
of the text. I think I said something like:
Brandon, I love
each scenario in the lyrics
paints a picture of the eschatalogical tension that characterizes
the Christian life, the tension between the now and the not-yet, and
further, how the thrust of the song as a whole points toward the
eschatalogical fulfillment of Eden as the New Heavens and the New
Earth under the metaphor of "going home."
Well, I probably
wasn't as clear as that, since Carmen was snorting, Dave was crying
foul after the first use of the word "eschatalogical," and Brandon
was thinking "I could have been anywhere today..." And, despite the
fact that it's believable patter for me, the verbosity and pomposity
were schtick, shooting for shock-value, which I seemed to squarely
hit, judging by the reactions of my partners. But underlying my
pompous performance, I was entirely serious. Let me get past the
radio stuff to unpack what I said and why. We should start with
Brandon's lyrics. Here's verse two and the chorus:
losing their homes to hurricanes
Old lady living next door forgot her own name
Teacher is hiding her Bible, but at least she's got a job
My local Salvation Army just got robbed
Feels like I'm leaving Eden
Feels like I'm leaving Eden
It's like I'm further away with every step I take
And I can't go back
‘Cause I'm leaving Eden
I'm going, going home
Let me speak plainly: I love this song! I think the music is great,
Brandon delivers it with passion, and I even like the little "Ohs"
that Carmen pointed out. But even more of my affection is reserved
for what the song (secondarily) teaches.
Now, I know Brandon didn't sit down and say, "I want to write a song
that teaches so-and-so," but still, the song comes from a
perspective that is rich with insight into the Christian life.
"Leaving Eden" is full of snapshots that portray life in a fallen
world, broken, on the other side of the Garden: waving to a stranger
who doesn't wave back, natural disasters, loved ones with
Alzheimer's, a culture hostile to faith. This is the world in which
we live. And like the best biblical wisdom literature, the song
doesn't try to "fix" those dimensions of fallenness with a simple
platitude or principle. Instead it portrays a God-given tension, the
in-between state in which every Christian is called to live
and walk by faith.
That in-betweeness is what I have in mind when I talk about "eschatalogical
tension." Eschatology is the study of last things, things like the
apocalypse, judgment day, the
new heaven and
etc. When Jesus showed up, the disciples all thought that's what He
was there to bring. "The kingdom of heaven is at hand,"
This is it! Rome will be overthrown. The righteous will be
vindicated. Everything is going to be set right. Uhh... not exactly.
The kingdom of heaven, and thus the Christian life, is like a...
well, it's like a pregnant woman, or like a baby growing to a mature
man, or, better yet, it's like Jesus taught:
like a man who
planted good seeds in his field
and then had to wait for the harvest. That's the Christian life. We
are, as Luther said, like the crucified Jesus between Friday and
Sunday, feet suspended between heaven and earth, already heirs of
eternal life but having to go through the cross to get there. That's
what the song portrays.
Even the little bridge-thing that uses "home" as a picture of
fulfilled eschatalogical expectation serves to reinforce the present
tension of living in the in-between! And then, the shameless
reference to Dorothy clicking her heels together ("There's no place
/ no place like home"). Well, it's a ready allusion, wouldn't you
say? Aren't we all hoping to find a way back home that will undo the
effects of the whirlwind and put things right? That universal
longing is what the song evokes for me.
We need more Christian songs like this, songs that draw out the
longing for heaven, for ultimate fulfillment, yet leave us in the
tension; songs that refuse to take us by some desperate construction
down the yellow brick road only to find some poser behind a curtain.
We need songs that reinforce the reality of the Christian life and
encourage us to face the realities of the historical, biblical fall
and its consequences.
Some folks who know the Christian music audience well would say
"Leaving Eden" is not a good song for radio, because the message may
be too figurative, and the "solution" to our problem is not
presented clearly enough in the four minutes and four seconds of
space the song fills with its images of brokenness and alienation. I
The hope is in acknowledging our problem, recognizing its source, or
as Brandon discussed with his counselor, "grieving Eden," an idea
that became the seed of the song and the record's title. When we get
to the source of our pain we are driven to the answer. That's how
law of Moses leads us to Christ,
serving as our tutor, pointing to its own origin and end.
Eden is the genesis of repentance: when we finally acknowledge that
we are by nature children of
wrath, and the deepest source of our problem isn't our
genetics, our environment or our lack of self-esteem, we can break
free from the chains that hold us bound to sin, the fall and its
consequences. But not fully. Not yet.
"Home" in the song is a picture of eschatalogical fulfillment. It's
the place where everything Jesus came to start, to inaugurate, will
be complete, finally finding its (and our) Divine Design. Did you
ever notice that the Bible begins with creation and ends in a new
creation? It begins in a garden and ends in a city, the New
Jerusalem, the fully populated city of the redeemed. All that was
broken will be whole again, and better. We who trust in Christ will
every tear wiped away,
relationships healed, no guilt, no hiding. "Leaving Eden" points us
to that fulfillment.
As Brandon says, "I can't go back," but that's okay. We don't want
or need to go back to the Garden. Home, for the Christ-follower, is
through Christ, following him in the daily-death of the cross (which
gives context to our suffering) into his kingdom and ultimately to
the fullness of the harvest, the banquet feast, the consummated
marriage, the reason for leaving Eden; our the ultimate salvation
To hear the entire conversation with Brandon, click the link
Bill Martin is a
member of The Morning Cruise on The Joy FM...