I was recently privileged to see one of my favorite bands, The Oh Hellos, in concert at the House of Blues in downtown Chicago.
I love all of The Oh Hellos’ music, but one song, in particular, has remained poignant to me ever since I first heard it. The song is called “The Truth is a Cave,” and I think it provides a beautiful picture of what I’m calling “the theological journey” – the stages one goes through in one’s knowledge of God.
The Truth is [NOT] a Cave
Here’s a video. Give the song a listen.
Here are the lyrics:
I was young and naive
As I was told, so I believed
And I was told there’s only one road that leads you home
And the truth was a cave on the mountainside
And I’d seek it out until the day I died
I was bound and determined
To be the child that you wanted
But I was blind to every sign you left for me to find
And the truth became a tool that I held in my hand
I wielded it, but I didn’t understand
I got tired of giving more than you gave to me
And I desired a truth I wouldn’t have to seek
But in the silence, I heard you calling out to me
The Truth is neither a Position, nor a Possession, but a Person.
ˆThere’s my summary of the song’s message in a nutshell.
Verse one portrays the truth as a distant and unattainable cave. I think that’s where we all start off in our theological journeys. The danger at this beginning stage is that God feels very distant and aloof. If we’re not careful, we can tire out and despair while “seeking out [the truth] until the day [we] die.”
However, things don’t get any better in verse two, where the truth is a tool. We, especially formal students of theology like myself, can quickly get caught up in our zeal for theological truth (“I was bound and determined / To be the child that you wanted”), missing the ways in which God actually wants to speak to us (“But I was blind to every sign you left for me to find”).
The result? We act like the truth about God is something we can possess and use to our own advantage. We treat theology like a swordfight or a dojo.
This gets us to verse three, the stage of the burnt-out theologian: “I got tired of giving more than you gave to me. And I desired a truth I wouldn’t have to seek.”
I could pretend like I don’t know why those words often bring tears to my eyes, but I do.
Pour your heart, mind, and soul into the theological task – as if it all depends on you and your zealous efforts to plumb the depths of the divine mysteries – and you will be brought to anger and/or despair by a world that so often feels godless, if not god-forsaken.
Good news, though: It doesn’t all depend on you and your theological efforts. God reveals himself to us, even (especially) when we least expect it: “But in the silence, I heard you calling out to me.”
Good news: The truth isn’t a cave.
The truth isn’t a tool.
The truth is a Person. Have you met the Truth?