My life in 15 Switchfoot songs

I’m sometimes asked why I’m such a fan of Switchfoot in particular. My response is usually to joke that I could probably tell you my life story in their lyrics! It’s not strictly true, but I could usually tell you the state of my soul at any given moment by reference to one of Jon Foreman’s songs, and they can certainly tell you a lot about who I am.

Talking about my experience as a megafan is possibly the most uncomfortably personal thing I could blog about aside from my own attempts at poetry, which means it would defeat the object of this blog to not go into that. I cannot really be known without knowing Switchfoot (to the extent that when I first began dating my husband, I bought him one of their CDs..! Know me, know ‘my’ band!).

This post was inspired by my fellow fan friends trying to list their favourite 15 Switchfoot songs. I cannot do it – if I could bend the laws of mathematics, I would put every song they ever recorded in my top 10! So these are by no means my favourite songs. If you want to know what those are, just ask me what I’m currently listening to at a given moment. And I’ve not even touched on other Jon Foreman material not released on full studio Switchfoot albums – I had to narrow my choice somehow! But here are 15 songs (audio of each song will open in a new tab if you click the links so you can listen along 🙂 ), in chronological order since I can’t rank them at all, that right now I can say have a particular resonance to me, and their stories:

  1. Let That Be Enough – A prayer that has caught me so many times when I’ve fallen into despair and felt hopeless. Time and again I’ve found myself feeling like a nobody with all I’ve worked for feeling like a failure after yet another project of mine has come to nothing, especially with a career history that looks like a long sequence of false starts, and this is the prayer that I have fallen back on. It’s a thin place where God is really not so far away.
  2. I Dare You To Move – This song has so much resonance with my faith story, describing perfectly for me the experience of first meeting Jesus and coming alive, and then finding that as I’ve grown with God I see the gap between reality and potential in myself and in the world more and more clearly. It is such a strong encouragement to never give up, to always keep picking myself up and pressing on, however hard the fight becomes.
  3. Erosion – Oddly specific, this one! It is awesome enough on paper as a worship song that takes soil erosion as its central metaphor and quotes Winnie The Pooh, but as an environmental scientist it has special resonance! When this came out I was at uni, and was taking a course in soil science, so I appreciated the metaphor – it really works! I did my first year research project on soil erosion and listened to this on repeat literally the whole time I was working on it (when I wasn’t in the library anyway…), and still loved it even after that, it got me through 🙂 I still think I should have included the song in my list of references.
  4. This Is Your Life – ‘Are you who you want to be?’ A question that I just have to keep returning to. Sometimes I don’t want to be asked it, the answer is painful. But it’s good to have to face up to that and think what can be done about it. It keeps me on track.
  5. Ammunition (and Politicians) – grouping these two together, perhaps the best example of a song with a sequel! There’s a real tendency amongst us activists to look at what a mess the world is in and then to find someone to blame for it, and make them the enemy. These two songs bring me back to the root of the problem – myself. We’re all a part of the mess, it starts inside each one of us, and we are all to some extent complicit in it, even if it’s by our apathy. I’m reminded not to pile the blame on someone else until I’ve first looked at myself and my own culpability, and to then think how we can work together to begin to put our mess right.
  6. On Fire – Hard to put this into words. In the moments when I get a clear glimpse of God, I also see so vividly the gap between God’s incredible, powerful beauty, and my own inadequacy, and the empty show that is our worship. As if we can contain God in a church service! As if I could ever be worthy of calling myself God’s follower! I think this song says it all.
  7. Twenty-Four – If I could tell my life in one song this might be it! Every day I can sing this, a story of repeated failure and redemption, and a desire to be truly God’s, truly myself, truly present in the moment, and the same person in all situations. I see so many layers of meaning in the end lyric ‘I am the second man now’ too – I am resurrected, I am ‘in Christ’ rather than ‘in Adam’, I am present in the moment, I take second place…
  8. Happy Is A Yuppie Word – The things this song has brought me through! Everything from being mistreated by a landlord to my country going to war. Sometimes I really get the feeling that ‘nothing is sound’. This song begins with a ‘rrrrrrAGH!’, possibly the most angsty sound in the whole of recording history, and sometimes that alone is the deepest and most profound prayer I can pray! But it goes on to put words around the feeling that really everything in the world and in me is so far from how it should be that to really yell it out becomes a really powerful prayer. Again, it won’t let you give up and close your eyes to the problems, whilst an incredible outlet for the frustration of it all, it also acts as a motivator for me to act.
  9. The Blues – For when the extent of the world’s mess really does become heartbreakingly too much. I sing this out with tears when honestly it doesn’t seem like anything could ever be right with the world. Again, a really powerful prayer and outlet for the emotional strain of the fight against injustice. Although in a way the emotion is left unresolved, the refrain draws me back to where my hope is pinned – on the promise of God’s coming Kingdom, and that however far off that world seems to be, it is coming.
  10. Daisy – I have a bad temper. I get fierily angry very easily about all sorts of stupid things, like being overlooked by a shop assistant, or someone playing music in the street outside my house at night, or someone walking in front of my bike when I’m cycling. One of my biggest issues has been road rage. I could get really mad at cars cutting me up whilst I’m cycling, or passing me too closely, or all manner of other things, and it’s come close to getting me in trouble and even making my own behaviour dangerous at times. One rainy day a couple of years ago I was cycling past a particularly dodgy junction when, yet again, a car pulled out right in front of me, causing me to swerve, and this song popped into my head. ‘Let it go, Daisy, open up your fist…’ and I physically opened my hands (keeping hold of the bike!), breathed, and tried to let it go, move on and be in the ‘now’. A perfect song for the moment, even the choice of name was interesting since daisies mean a lot to me! And it has stayed with me in similar situations since, a conscious choice to just let go and move on instead of getting angry and holding on to the bad experiences I don’t need to dwell on. I am really changing as a result.
  11. Awakening – I find it very easy to close off to reality and not let it affect me. I like the sense this song gives (as do many lyrics in other Switchfoot songs) that unless we allow ourselves to feel the disconnect between the now and not yet, ‘how it is and how it should be’, we are asleep – dead even, and that really living involves feeling the pain of that and rising up, with others, to bring healing to the wounds, even when it wounds us. It’s a constant challenge to wake up and live, rather than continuing to take things easy.
  12. Yet – Now being brutally honest, I see my own relationship with my husband in this song. How many times I’ve hurt him, and though he doesn’t exactly cry, I have certainly shut him down. That’s almost worse. I hate myself for it when I do, and yet instead of backtracking and apologising, I find myself getting more angry and indignant, and self-justifying. I am a horrible person in those moments! The truth is it breaks me when I behave that way. And yet…I experience so much grace, both from him and from God. I am the monster, but I do not accept that in myself. I’m being forgiven and made new, I’m trying to allow God to work in me and clear all that rubbish from me, and become a more loving person, and the second chances on second chances I’m given are incredible gifts.
  13. Thrive – I have moments when I wonder who I am, what I’m about, why I still behave in ways I hate, where I’m heading, and whether or not I’m making a difference. Am I becoming someone I’m not? Will I ever feel like I’ve done something of actual significance? This is my song for those moments.
  14. Rise Above It – This is a song that gives me so much energy! It’s like ‘Come on! You know nothing’s ok, but you can fight it! You can do it! Do you really want to accept easy, everyday normality? Oh come on! You were made to change the world, even in your own small way, you were made to live a different way and challenge this whole broken system. Don’t accept ‘normal’!’
  15. The World You Want – Another quietly challenging question, ‘Is this the world you want? You’re making it, every day you’re alive you change the world…’ The choice for me, us, is not if we’ll change the world but how. We are, by our very nature, changing the world. Every action, every day, decides whether we shape it for good or for bad, whether we are helping bring about love, justice and care for our fellow creatures, bringing in God’s kingdom, or whether we perpetuate existing systems of injustice. Ultimately, our true faith manifests itself in our actions or inactions. When we’ve really caught a glimpse of God, we can’t help but follow. If it never goes beyond words and religiosity, it’s doubtful we’ve truly encountered God. It’s a good challenge for me; how much am I truly following, truly stepping out of my comfort zone, and what does that say about how close I am to Jesus?

(PS: If you like these songs, go buy them! downloads CDs 🙂 )

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4 thoughts on “My life in 15 Switchfoot songs

  1. Rebecca Foster

    (I’m just catching up on your old blog posts! I think I’ve only seen a couple via Facebook; I’ll have to make sure to follow you so I don’t miss any.) I love this idea of tracing your life story through song lyrics. I tend to think more in terms of albums that defined time periods. Speaking specifically of Switchfoot, Learning to Breathe always takes me back to the solo trip I took out to visit my sister in California in the spring break of my senior year of high school. Perfect pop for cruising along the coast to L.A. 🙂 Then Nothing Is Sound was the soundtrack to my lonely MA year in Leeds. I can tell I’m not as die-hard a fan as you because I didn’t even recognise one of the track titles (“Yet” — because it’s on my least favourite ‘Foot album :p). You’ve pulled out some really inspiring lyrics of theirs.

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  2. Pingback: My tour of The Wonderlands, part 2; Edinburgh | Wide-Open Soul

  3. Pingback: 10 Jon Foreman songs that shape my world | Wide-Open Soul

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