Finishing the race strong

When we began collecting submissions for Get Up Off Your Knees, it immediately became apparent that a very high number of preachers from all traditions -- though they might not know anything about U2's history, about their stated faith commitments, or about any of their full albums -- sure did know the song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

I began to suspect, in fact, that one or more illustrations based on it had been spread worldwide by one of those "preacher's helps" services that serves up pre-digested bits of culture to incorporate into your sermons for $39.99 a year. Email after email was arriving in my inbox with submissions that briefly quoted the title and then moved on to the preacher's real topic. Of course, there were also some good sermons on the song -- Steve Stockman's reading in tandem with Philippians 3, and Darlene Pryds' use of it to reflect on the overall seeking spirit of a generation, both made it into the book. If memory serves, we may have said no to one or two other quality submissions simply because we didn't want to overdo references to one title when U2's catalog is so rich in homiletical potential.

At any rate, by the time the book came out I basically never wanted to read another reflection on this song -- and its refrain continues to be, so far as I can see, the most frequently used piece of U2's art in Christian contexts. To avoid redundancy, I've long since stopped linking material here that simply refers to the title or last verse, or uses the song to illustrate the simple idea that "we're all looking for something in life...." I've wondered, in fact, if there can possibly be anything else to say in dialogue with this piece of music.

The current installment of @U2's occasional column Like a Song answers that: Yes. There is definitely more to say in dialogue with this piece of music. Do not miss this soulful, thoughtful, and balanced piece of writing by Matt McGee.


Matt McGee said...

Thanks for this, Beth - very kind of you. It's funny ... had you asked me a year ago what song I might want to write about on @U2, that would've been the last song on my list. But then things change, people change, and what was old and tired suddenly means something new.

Peter Vallelly said...

Dear Beth / Matt,

This is a very thoughtful piece of reflective writing about life's journey and the joys and losses that give our life meaning. ISHFWIALF is a song I felt I could happily not hear again in 2005, but I went with my friend Perry to see the Vertigo Tour in Manchester and Perry described how, as an evangelical earnest unquestionably believing 18 year old [ in 1987 ] he struggled with the message of the song....and almost fell out of love with U2 as a consequence...Meanwhile for myself, the song had been one of the ways God clung onto me through my wayward 20's......early 30's...I remember telling Perry en-route that ISHFWIALF was a U2 warhorse that had been buried and I did not envisage hearing it again......It was Perry's first U2 show [as he had found as a maturing 30 something that u2's Christian message resonated with the more sober and reflective faith he had found...]and he yearned for ISHFWIALF. June 15th 2005, 7th Song....like a thing of beauty there was ISHFWIALF....Beautiful...Tears were shed....In many ways the song captures both our faith journeys.....Furthermore for broadly secular English audiences I really do feel this is U2 taking our 'faith ' to the secular masses....as Bono says " take us to Church 'indeed. It was an absolute centrepiece touchstone song in 2009/ 2010 as well.