I was twelve years old when my dad surprised me with a trip to Eugene to see my favorite band. I had overalls, and huge, dorky glasses, and no one had taught me to use a flatiron on my unruly bangs yet. I had a notebook filled with handwritten Switchfoot lyrics copied down out of CD jackets, and I dreamed of being a writer. When my dad said he had bought these tickets, I could barely contain my excitement. We drove up to Eugene, where Switchfoot was playing to a tiny crowd at the Crystal Ballroom, and where I was front row as they played through a whole bunch of new songs, including “Gone”, “Meant to Live”, and an acoustic version of “Only Hope”, all before they catapulted to fame about two short years later with their mainstream releases. The noise was deafening in that ballroom, and I remember watching my dad find earplugs to soften the blow, all the while giving me the memory of a lifetime. It’s one of my favorite memories that I’ve ever shared with my dad. He didn’t really know their music, or know the words to the songs; he probably ruined his eardrums with the noise level. He only knew that I loved them, and he made the drive and bought the tickets just for me. I fell in love with music again that day, and I didn’t realize the role that music would play (especially Switchfoot’s music) in the years to come.
Six years after that concert, I accepted a job at Christian Music Planet and CCM Magazine, where I earned my dream of being a real writer. I was eighteen years old, and had no idea I’d stay at that magazine long after I’d married and had children. At my high school graduation, each graduating senior got a mini slideshow of baby photos and all the milestones of growing up…my slideshow was set to “Dare You to Move”, one of my very favorite Switchfoot songs. The homeschool graduation committee had to approve it because it didn’t overtly say the word “Jesus”…still a humorous, ridiculous fact even eleven years later.
I was twenty two when our wedding coordinator threw open the doors of a church with vaulted ceilings and big picture windows, and I walked down the aisle to my husband, on the arm of my dad. “Only Hope” was playing, and I couldn’t help but think of twelve year old me, front row, hearing that song for the very first time with a handful of people in a stuffy old venue, and how Jon played it on a guitar stuck together with duct tape.
On Monday night, Switchfoot played in a little town about an hour away from here. A tiny, historic theater, this time stuffed to the brim and overflowing with people in the aisle ways and in the balcony. And then came the music, old and new, taking me right back to sixteen years ago. But things are different now. I am a wife. I’m a mother. I am older, hopefully wiser… I’ve learned to do my hair. I have physical and emotional scars from loss now. I am raising my babies in a country where people are divided and angry, where school shooters open fire on kindergarten classrooms, and where we have a President with whom I can’t see eye to eye. So, the girl sixteen years ago, scribbling down song lyrics in a notebook…she’s different now. But the music still heals, the music still rings true. There was something so healing about being in a room filled with people, singing those songs, hearing the words. The tour is called Looking for America, because in every town, they want to know; who is America? What do we stand for? Where are our wounds? How do we heal? They raised money on Monday, donations for a child to receive a lifesaving surgery, and money to help refugee youth who are homeless. Because we are America. We are still singing. Our wounds are fresh but the light is shining through.
Cause your scars shine like dark stars
Your wounds are where the light shines through
So let’s go there, to that place where
We sing these broken prayers where the light shines through–
The wound is where the light shines through
Yeah, the wound is where the light shines through