The Avett Brothers and I have been fond friends for about a year and a half. Last May, when I was leaving for home/South Carolina/camp, I listened to my first album…and fell in love. I had heard them on alternative stations before, but something in the words and haunting melodies and truth had my heart. Perfect road trip music. Sad to leave friends, say to say goodbye to friends, happy to go home and to work camp in Charleston…so many conflicting emotions and paradoxes, and Emotionalism fit every one of those, to a tee.
We’ve spent a lot of time together in these months. Lots of roadtripping, studying, looking at Hebrew notecards, flying….you name it, and the Avett Brothers were probably the background music for it, as far as my life goes in the last eighteen months. And their lyrics? They aren’t shallow or cold or lifeless. I love words. I love people who love words and use them. I love musicians who love words. And the Avett Brothers? They love some good words [i.e. syntax] like nobody’s business. And I love that. Plus, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from them along the way.
“One foot in and one foot back—but it don’t pay to live like that. So I cut the ties and jumped the tracks, for never to return.” (“I and Love and You”)
The first time I ever heard this song, I had just moved to Birmingham—and I fell in love with it. I wrestled with missing South Carolina, wanting to move to New Orleans, and not understanding the Lord’s purpose for me being where I was—and one day, I really thought about these words and what it means to live “one foot in and one foot back.” I decided I didn’t want to be that person anymore. And that has made all the difference in falling in love with school, with ministry here, with this city…with life in Alabama—in the midst of the difficulties and joys.
“No longer do we wonder, if we’re together, we’re way past that—and I’ve already asked her, and in January we’re getting married.” (“January Wedding” )
I have to admit that most of “January Wedding” doesn’t always make sense—but I guess it’s cute that a girl knows the names of the trees and birds? She’s really in touch with nature. I mostly like this line because it really is a problem when people have to wonder if they are together or not. Typically the kind of thing that should be a two-person conversation…with the other person physically present. No one said the Avett Brothers didn’t give good practical relationship advice.
“”I’m yours and that’s it, whatever. I should not have been gone for so long…I’m yours, and that’s it, forever.” (“The Ballad of Love and Hate”)
I love this song. My friend Tyler would often ask me if I was Love or Hate on any given day, during camp. I hope I’m Love…but chances are, probably not. This song is convicting. And makes me smile with the end, every time, when Hate realizes he needs and wants Love.
“I made decisions, some right and some wrong—and I let some love go, I wish wasn’t gone. These things and more I wish I had not done…but I can’t go back, and I don’t want to, because all my mistakes brought me to you.” (“All My Mistakes”)
I’m not upholding sinfulness or making poor decisions or mistakes—but I do think it’s a beautiful reminder that God, in his sovereignty, brings glory to himself through our wretched miserable lives, and that even through poor and terrible choices he makes himself known. I’ve learned a lot from the myriad of poor decisions I have made in my twenty-five years of life.
“I love you but I can’t remember why, stars fallen from a high forgotten sky—I was a one-line wonder in my own love song….I tried to think of bad times, good memories are all I have.” (“One Line Wonder”)
I am so good, in every aspect of my life, to remember the past with such fondness and to forget about difficulty. I am so good at analyzing and describing and evaluating—but man, when I look back on the past, I am also SO good at idealizing and making everything look much better than it is…not in the positive, glass-half-full kind of manner, but in the “everything was so much better, let me distrust in the Lord’s sovereignty a little more” kind of way. In relationships, in school, in towns…period. I also like that they convey the idea of a being a one-line wonder in your own love song.
“Life is ever changing but I can always find a constant and comfort in your love.” (“Swept Away,” Sentimental Version)
The beauty of relationship—and not just the romantic kind, but I’m thinking of the friendship kind—is that the really good ones are the ones that are consistent and comfortable and just…there. And you can stop at their apartment to reapply your makeup after you’ve cried it all off on the way to class. And burst into their office and tell them about every single one of your problems, without them thinking you are crazy. Or even stop at their house after becoming a basketcase in Publix. Or…take care of you post-wisdom teeth removal while high on life and pain medication. They send encouraging texts, and notes, and Scripture passages, and pray over you, and love you, and are family. You can count on them to help you with anything and everything—even crazy things. I’m reminded over and over again of the goodness of God’s love as it is mirrored in the sometimes imperfect love humans have for each other.
There are lots of other songs. There are lots of other lyrics. And many, many words…and they’re mostly good. And helpful. And nice for a roadtrip, or a Hebrew study session, or even a nice cry while roadtripping—provided that you are alone in the car, mind you. Thanks for the education, Avett Brothers, and for teaching me some things about life—and myself.