Noah Gundersen

Last night I saw Noah Gundersen in concert.  I fell in love with his music the second I heard “Jesus, Jesus,” which perfectly expresses my doubts and discomforts with Christianity while also clinging to a hoped for hope.

When I finally got around to listening to the rest of his music, I was blown away by his ability to honestly relate the highs and lows of life with a wisdom that digs beneath the obvious.  In “Isaiah” he describes a relationship with a girl who has a boyfriend.  He manages to convey the ambivalence of wanting the relationship and knowing it’s wrong.  The chorus repeats Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not, my right hand will hold you, fear thou not.”  The first time it is an excuse, a get out of jail free card, and as the song progresses into regret and conviction, it becomes a truth to which he clings in the midst of sin.  I mean, this guy blows me away.

And he’s even more fantastic in person.  His passion pours off the stage.  He is absolutely captivating.  And the joy of live music comes from hearing your favorite songs in real time, watching emotions play across an artist’s face as they share their soul with a crowd of strangers.  So when he played the opening chords of “Jesus, Jesus” I was thrilled.  It was better than I expected, however, as we were privileged to hear Noah’s alterations to the song, something I can only assume reflects his spiritual progression.

The last verse of “Jesus, Jesus” is this:

“Jesus, Jesus, I’m still looking for answers
Though I know that I won’t find them here tonight
But Jesus, Jesus, could you call me if you have the time?
And maybe we could meet for coffee and work it out
And maybe then I’ll understand what it’s all about”

But what he sang was this:

“Jesus, Jesus, I’m still looking for answers
And I think I always will be
But Jesus, Jesus, could you call me if you have the time?
And maybe we could meet for whiskey and work it out
And maybe then I’ll understand,
Maybe then I’ll understand,
Maybe then I’ll understand
You.”

It’s probably powerful enough to let the contrasts sit there, but what is a blog for if not unnecessarily sharing opinions?  And I have to, because I love the changes.  First he acknowledges that not only will the doubts go unsolved tonight, but–they’re always going to exist.  Then he changes out coffee for whiskey, reflecting a darker sensibility, and awareness that this is heavy stuff, not something for a casual coffee date.  Not only that, but he trusts that Jesus would join him for whiskey, would be comfortable joining him where he is: in a bar, silencing his pain.

And finally, my favorite change.  Whereas first Noah sings about understanding “what it’s all about” he finally decides that he wants to understand “you.”  There will always be questions and he will always want answers (don’t we all?), but in the end, he knows those aren’t sufficient.  You can have all the answers in the world to the problems presented in the song, but answers won’t solve anything unless you know the Person who is giving the answers.

Noah is probably not a Christian, from what my concert-mates told me.  But his song speaks volumes of truth to me, reminding me that having arguments are secondary to resting in Jesus.  If I can understand him, the contradictions and worries will fall away.  I’m so honored to have been able to listen to Noah’s heartbeat so that mine can fall into his cadence.

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