Head Above Water

You typically can’t expect much depth from pop stars, but one would hope that Avril Lavigne has matured from her days as a tomboy back in 2002, and judging by her new song, “Head Above Water,” it seems that she has. Or maybe it was the near-death experience that finally did the trick. Miss Lavigne had been greatly suffering from Lyme disease, and in the midst of her deepest pain, she composed the song, in which she cries to God to “keep her head above water.”

The old saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” came to mind when I first heard the song. In the midst of great pain or anguish, many turn to God even when they had previously forsaken him or had never believed in him in the first place. I suppose Avril Lavigne is one of these. I don’t expect her to return to the Christian faith of her roots, but you never know (and you can always hope).

I find it amusing that the news outlets are calling “Head Above Water” a worship song, and to me, it is. If this was Lavigne’s very first single, everyone would be calling her a Christian artist and they’d sell her album in Christian bookstores, like they did with Evanescence’s first album.

But Avril Lavigne herself may not see the song that way—but rather as a pop ballad or an anthem to show strength in a difficult time. At the very end of the music video is a message about Lyme disease and the URL of Lavigne’s anti-Lyme foundation website. So it appears to be the song used to market her cause.

Either way, I really like the song, and it’s a nice departure from the junk on Top 40, which reminds me, now that I think of it, that I haven’t heard Lavigne’s song on the radio at all. I wonder why. Perhaps it’s because the teenagers who listen to Top 40 were very young or not even born when she was most popular, so they might not know who she is. That’s a scary thought.

Stressed Out?

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our mama sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

Millennial neuroticism and nostalgia are perfectly captured in “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. I realize that it’s an older song (came out in 2015), but lately, it’s been played on the radio every five minutes on every station, and there’s probably a reason for that: we can relate.

As millennials, we’re always getting teased for being that lazy, entitled generation, so why should we whine about being stressed out? All we do is couch-surf and binge-watch the old Nicktoons in our pajamas as we’re munching on avocado toast, right?

In the song, the sources of stress seem to be needing to “wake up and make money” and caring about what others think (also, a lack of mothers to sing us to sleep—instead, we have the Twenty One Pilots). Sounds kind of strange for a famous band that probably makes millions of dollars a year to be whining about having to make money, but at least they’re keeping it real.

As for caring about what others think, these lyrics bother me:

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think

Indeed, your childish fears do shrink, but they are replaced by different kinds of fears. It’s no longer the monster under your bed: it’s the IRS. It’s no longer being bullied at school: it’s being laid off from work. However, when you’re a child, you are less able to do something about your fears. As an adult, you have a little more control over your own destiny than you once did. (But make no mistake: no one is ever completely in control of anything.)

Feeling “secure” in oneself is supposed to come with age and time, so I’m wondering why the main character in the song is still worried about what others think, more so than when he was younger. Perhaps it’s because of that major stressor affecting millennials: social media and the resulting comparison of oneself to others based on very limited and biased evidence.

My advice to the people my age: Keep doing what you love. Don’t use social media to excess. Find some way to express yourself in a constructive way. Come back to church. Do some soul-searching. We do have a mama to sing us to sleep.

 

Advent and the Waiting

Upon thinking of Advent, the first thing that leaped into my brain was this song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:

Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Every Advent, we are waiting for the return of Christ as an infant. Every day, we are waiting for something, and we know that many of the things we are waiting for and praying for and hoping for will not come to fruition, but we wait anyway.

What is life but a big waiting room? In a way, we’re all metaphorically sitting in the DMV office waiting for our number to be called. Of course, there are times when it’s less mind-numbingly boring than that, but what it comes down to is that the waiting never truly ends until we die and reach the final judgment.

Many times, the pain of waiting comes from not knowing when the waiting will end. It does little good to wait for your own death because few of us know the exact day it will happen. Waiting for the end of a semester, the end of a job, or the end of an event is easier because we can count down the days.

How do you ease the pain of waiting? Perhaps prayer may work for some. Maybe it’s taking your mind off the wait by focusing on something else. Maybe it’s by doing everything in your power to shorten the wait.

Finding the joy in waiting is difficult, especially when what we might be waiting for isn’t particularly happy or exciting. In that case, you might be waiting for the unhappy event to be over.

Fortunately, in Advent, we know what we’re waiting for and we know the day and the hour. We know how many days we have to scramble and get ready for one of the holiest events of the year. We have a general sense, based on tradition, of what will happen during that day. But we don’t know the precise details, and it’s in those precise details that the joy comes through—those tiny memories we make that stick with us over time and become the subject of joyful stories for years to come.

Happy Advent!