I had the chance last week to go to a concert here in Dallas. Switchfoot is a band that I really enjoy, so any time they are in town, I try to see their show. They have a great culture of community and love about them, from their lyrics to their shows to the group of fans who call themselves “fams” instead–a family. They are a band of five Christians and have been playing for more than two decades. Their faith is why they do what they do, and it shows.
The current tour is called Native Tongue after their most recent album. The title track was played on Friday night, and it has since had me reflecting on the power of the Word and our own words in our daily lives. Here’s a bit of the song (you can also click to listen):
My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue //
My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue
As someone who loves languages, I try to pay attention to the words people use, because the ones we choose show so much of who we are and where we are in our life or in our day. This is especially true as I continue the lifelong journey to native fluency in Spanish. I spend a lot of time listening to words and music in Spanish, which is not my “native tongue,” as it were. The native tongue (English for me) is the one that comes without thinking, the one that shows who I am, and the one that reflects my current state, be it spiritually, mentally, or emotionally.
In Native Tongue, the words Switchfoot use tell the story of a person who recognizes that their heart/head/soul, reflected in their words, are far from the way they were made to be–their native tongue. Scripture tells us this is actually exactly correct for all of us:
Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.James 3:4-6A
There’s a lot of power in words for the tongue being so small a part of us! I am thankful, however, that that passage is not the end of James 3, nor is it the end of our story. Here’s the end of James 3, which is what our native tongue looks more like:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.James 3:17-18
Let us pray in thanksgiving that God, through his Son Jesus Christ, has changed the course of our “oblivion”. He has given us his Word to serve as our rudder. Through him we are given the chance to use our words for peace in this, “a world of unrighteousness.” May we use these opportunities to bring his light to our circumstances and to those around us.
Let us also echo the prayer with which Switchfoot ends Native Tongue:
I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows