It’s Never Enough Until Your Heart Stops Beating


If you don’t already know, I play drums. Four weeks ago, I got lost in the moment during worship at church and misunderstood a gesture by one of the other worship team members as the signal end a song. Not remembering how far along we were into that song, I complied and the whole thing ground to a quick halt. This left the lead guitarist unprepared for the next song, as he was lost in the moment, too.

Oops. As someone who attempts to be professional in his playing, I don’t make an enormous number of boneheaded mistakes like that.

Later, I was told by someone that my mistake resulted in the quenching of the Spirit. I know in my heart that this isn’t true because the Holy Spirit isn’t so timid that a missed cue sends Him flying away. This isn’t an incantation, folks.

Still, a nagging doubt of my skills remained.

The next Sunday—Easter—rolled around and a packed church greeted us as I sat down on my drummer’s throne. Our set had a number of songs we’d not practiced fully, so I was on pins and needles considering the previous week.

What happened next could best be described in my view as “a disaster.” Because we sometimes extend songs if the mood hits, endings get dictated by whomever leads the song. I play along until I get a cue to end. Easter Sunday, yours truly, my cue radar on hypersensitive, proceeded to take three slight gestures by song leaders as “let’s end this”—only to end the songs prematurely. This happened on each of the last three songs we played, each ending worse than the one before.

The people in the seats didn’t know any better. The vast majority didn’t catch the mistakes. But I could barely get off the stage. I didn’t hear the message. I don’t think I heard anything anyone said. The afternoon stunk. The evening followed in kind. The Monday after resembled the dark-hued one that New Order (or Fats Domino, for all you oldsters) sang about.

New Order also sang the following:

That’s the way – shellshock.
Hold on! It’s never enough,
It’s never enough until your heart stops beating.

I talk to people and it never ceases to amaze me how many live in perpetual shellshock. No matter what they do, it’s never enough. Never enough until their hearts stop beating.

I look at what we’re doing to ourselves and wonder if the cost to keep up with the Joneses, to never let our guard down for one moment lest we stumble and the herd of stampeding elephants behind us run us over, is worth it.

I dare any married couple with children to arrange a get-together with five other similar couples. How far does the calendar spool out before a mutually open date shows up—if at all? Then the pressure mounts.

When our culture only likes a winner, everyone fights to win. But what of the losers? And if there’s only one winner, aren’t most of us losers?natlamp.jpg

When our culture praises a life set awhirling, how do we turn off the spin cycle?

The iconic magazine cover at right summarizes our dilemma. Are we the dog? Or are we the consumer? Don’t we lose in either case?

I think too many of us feel like we have a gun pointed at our heads and that at any second someone or something may squeeze the trigger. We rationalize that if we only do this better or that more quickly, the gun will magically disappear.

Or we feel the pressure to conform to the voices yelling at us through our culture. Sadly, we may feel as if our churches scream the same message as the culture. They tell us what we should be doing, but give us no tools or assistance to make that command possible. In some ways, we’re left attempting what they say for fear of worse consequences, even if we can’t make what they say work.

It’s never enough. And the heart beats on, though more anxiously.

I used to think that frenzy and performance stood as distinct traits, but now I’m beginning to see they feed off each other. They combine like nitro and glycerine to explode in our lives, leaving us shellshocked.

Yesterday afternoon, my family attended a wildflower walk hosted by the Audubon Society. Jack in the Pulpit, Spring Beauty, Blue Phlox, Trillium, Yellow Ragwort. Flowers. In the woods. For hours.

Driving home, I wondered how many people would consider that time ill-spent because the dividends don’t leap out. Or how many have so scheduled their lives they can’t possible find the time to stop and consider a fragile flower not even a quarter inch across.

I’ve got to believe that a culture that hurtles here and there loses its soul. If we’re living our lives under the mantra that it’s never enough until our hearts stop beating, then perhaps we’re already dead.

Someone has to stand up and oppose this performance-oriented frenzy of activity. And more than just one of us. We can’t do this alone or else we simply won’t generate the inertia to change our culture.

Yes, it’s a matter of prayer. But more than that, it’s Christians playing the counterculture card and doing so with their very lives.

We want to see Christ lifted up, to win the world for Him, yet we’re either stuck in the spin cycle or sidelined by shellshock.

Something’s gotta give.

{Image: One of the most recognized magazine covers of all-time, National Lampoon, January 1973, ASME‘s #7 cover of the period 1965-2005.}