Birds without Wings

So I was sitting on my front porch the other day, attempting to gain some level of perspective I guess, and I kept thinking about the human condition. When I say the human condition, and due to my personal experiences and my theological foundation, I mean the state of humanity as sinful people. But also the idea that humans rarely act in the ways in which they speak. Words like intention, will, and flawed came to mind. Then I began thinking about that passage in which St. Paul talks about how the things he wants to do he doesn't do and the things he doesn't want to do he then does. A very simple and yet profoundly accurate statement, given my past and the decisions I make on a day to day basis. But why is that? Why is it that my intentions, which I believe are good and often part of the vision God has given to me, hardly ever meet with real action? You can give me all your doctrinal explanations, give me five point Calvinism and the state of the morally depraved man, but in the end my question and my struggle cannot be met by systematic theology. It cannot simply be described, probed and prodded, and then thought to be understood completely. I agree with a lot of the answers, though in many different ways, and yet I am still not satisfied with them. They don't speak to me as a human, they speak to me as textbook answers and thus they can't relate to me on some level. These articulations have been composed by humans, by sinful humans and yet they don't speak to me as such. It's a textbook answer to a stories old question.

 I've been sifting through N.T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, and I think that what has impressed upon me the most is the question of story. How do humans use epistemology (knowledge)? Wright's argument is that we understand things through stories. Stories shape our worldviews and help us take in information and process it. When counter-stories come up and interact with our current stories, we have choices to make. We can modify it to "fit" into our story, we can full out reject it and argue against it based on the strengths of our own stories, or it can totally subvert the story we have been telling ourselves. I think this is how Jesus comes at his audience (in the text and in us). He subverts our stories, telling us new ones that offer a new worldview and a new hope. The incarnation is so relevant here. Jesus, God in the flesh, doesn't throw textbook answers or remedies or systematic theology at us and say "It is finished"! No, instead he begins to challenge us, calls into question our strategies for living, and basically gives us another story to live under.

As I read and pray over the text now, I am realizing how much more this 'story' impacts me more than anything else. I don't need information, a new set of rules to follow. I need a good story, and it has to be so good that my worldview begins to change. No, I don't act completely out of this worldview yet, but the more I engage it, the more it gets into places I am uncomfortable with, the more I begin to see that my intentions are actually being acted out. I think this begins to happen when it no longer appears external to us. Instead, I am invited into this story and for it to shape my whole worldview. Humans act out of their worldview, stated and unstated. I think the move of the gospel is to go from the stated worldview to the unstated. In psychological terms, it is a move from the conscious to the unconscious.

David Gray wrote this song called 'Birds without Wings' circa 1993. It is such a great song, and I think it concerns this idea of the stated worldview, what I believe is our goals and intentions, in other words our "ideals". For many and myself, we hardly ever move from ideal to action, from hope to faith. Here are the lyrics:

Wishing that something would happen
A change in this place,
'cos I'm tearing off the fancy wrapping
Find an empty package

Take for a while
Your trumpet from your lip
Loosen your hold, loosen your grip
On your old ways
That have fallen out of step
In a changing time
Hoist a new flag
Hoist a new flag

Angry sun burn down
Judging us all
Guilty of neglect and disrespect
And thinking small

And death by boredom
And death by greed
If we can't stop taking
More than we need

But across the fractured landscape
I find the same things
Tired ideas
Birds without wings

Birds without wings
Birds without wings

And these are just thoughts
On lack-luster times
I've no interest
In excuses you can find

Like you've had a hard day
Now you've too tired to care
Now you're too tired to care
You've had a hard day

Well across the fractured landscape
I see the same things
Tired ideas broken values
Many with the notion
That to share is to lose
A hollow people bound by a lack
Of imagination and too much looking back Without the courage
To give a new thing a chance
Grounded by this ignorance

(and the cat comes)
We're just,

Birds without wings
Birds without wings
Birds without wings


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