But I haven’t found what I’m looking for!

On Sunday I visited a lively Anglican church and took part in a really good service. I worshipped God and enjoyed myself and came out feeling uplifted and with my head full of ideas. But I was irked by a song we sang.

We sang U2’s classic “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. Except – we didn’t. The lyrics had been cunningly amended to “Now I know that I’ve found what I’m looking for”. That made my heart sink. I understood the reasoning, of course. We are Christians. We have found Jesus. He is everything we can ever want or need. We have found what we are looking for, and the world around us can find him too.

Now let’s for a moment put aside any questions over the legality, morality or creative integrity of amending a song to say the opposite of what it originally (inconveniently) said. They are important questions and as a creative writer I have strong feelings on the matter and may post about that separately, but let’s shut those boxes for now.

A heartfelt cry

Singing the song forced me to make a comparison with the last time I was part of an explicitly Christian crowd singing that song. It was August 1998 and Greenbelt Festival (a Christian arts festival) was closing a chapter of its long life and facing an uncertain future. A crowd of thousands stood at mainstage and raised their voices to sing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. It was a heartfelt, honest cry that exposed the hearts of those singing – life with god is a winding road, a constant exploration of the unknown and a search for both God’s heart and our own. Finding Jesus isn’t an end; it isn’t even the beginning of an end.

“Now I know that I’ve found what I’m looking for” reflects a very different attitude to God. Here, finding Jesus is the end of the search. You may still see life with God as a journey, but it is not a search. You found the bus-stop and climbed aboard the big holy bus. You’ve still got work to do but no more searching.

As many questions as ever

Alright, so enough of the metaphors. I stood in the church and I confess, I sang the song. It’s a funky song. There were enough words I believed in to make it worth singing. And I do understand the sense in which I have found my salvation and my guide to the universe. But I also think that many Christians spend too much time living a lie, trying to pretend that they have the answers when in their hearts they know that they have as many questions as ever. It is dishonest, soul-destroying and off-putting to non-believers. Admit to yourself that you still haven’t found what you are looking for. Ten thousand angels will shout “Hallelujah!”.