Breaking Down Every Breaking Wave

Stanza 1

Although Bono's lyrics sometimes seem simple at first glance or initial listen, there is always an unyielding spiritual deepness in their meaning. His lyrics, like U2s music, is never on the surface. Only a few listens to their latest stellar album, may seem just that. Where's the rich, dark, deep meaningful lyrics that helped make Achtung Baby one of the greatest albums in the history of music? Well, they're there and just like so many Bible stories or even verses alone, the magnitude of their meaning and purpose transcend to multiple levels - leaving me inspired. And if you're not a fan, I encourage you to open your heart and you too will be uplifted.

The purpose of my latest blog entry is to deconstruct their beautiful rock ballad/anthem, Every Breaking Wave - track two on Songs of Innocence.  I'll explain how this song, although unique in its own way, mirrors all of their other songs. Behind the music, behind the lyrics, when stripped down it is what they all are. A hymn. A hymn as powerful as all the breaking waves that come our way.

The following is my own personal interpretation. With all great writing comes varying interpretations. Bono may have had a completely different story in mind. Although after years and years of reading the meaning behind his writing, I feel I'm pretty close with my analysis.

Every breaking wave on the shore
Tells the next on there'll be one more

Breaking waves represent the fingertips of Satan. Later on in the song that I'll get to later, Bono refers to the sea being a friend turned enemy. Thee Enemy. And what Satan touches and ultimately destroys is overwhelming and can be frightening to anyone that doesn't put on their full suit of armor. His plans and ideas are to turn and churn our lives are relentless. Trickery that may begin as a trickle, only grows in strength - if we let it. We are the shore - or rather, all of God's goodness and light represent the shore. If untouched, waves crash and return to the sea...return to the enemy. But there's always one more. Always more temptation. Always a plan to destroy. And he's good at what he does. It can take us down, knock us out and be the burden on our backs that we can sometimes be so accustomed too, we don't realize it's there.

And every gambler knows that to lose
Is what you're really there for

With every decision whether a choice concerning ourselves, our spouse, our family or our work, we are gambling. We, those of that are humble, hope with all of our hearts that whatever is decided is part of the path God wants us to take. Sometimes we lose. It isn't our purpose to lose or to fail, but it's part of our path no matter what. The agony of defeat over a wrong decision doesn't move us backwards. I don't believe we ever move backwards on God's path. We simply turn in another direction. We're here to lose. Jesus said, "For those that are first will be last and those that will be last will be first." What a great paradox!

Summer I was fearless
Now I speak into an answer phone

Summer in this case isn't talking about the season of the year, but rather a season of life - a specific period in our lives like all others that are enveloped in either fear, hope or recklessness. The character telling the story here is speaking of a time in his life that -for the lack of a better description - didn't go so well. Whether he exited that stage with reflection and realization is answered in the next line. The answer phone (also known as an answering machine/voice mail) symbolizes his calling out, his prayer for a new direction - guidance on how to change his current course.

Like every falling leaf on the breeze
Winter wouldn't leave it alone
We are all leaves close to falling. It's not a pessimistic view, just a statement about how fragile we are. The enemy knows this, hence his relentless waves. He wants us to crash. He knows how easily we fall from our trees as soon as a new season (winter) comes along. We hold on tightly, but it's inevitable - we fall. The question is, do we keep an eye on the shore. Do you see the footprints of the man who picks us up and carries us?

This ends the first stanza. The song only get more beautiful from here. I'll continue unwrapping these lyrics next time and explain that not all waves are necessarily the fingertips of the enemy, but rather choices in our lives. Satan wants to convince us that we must have everything. He wants to convince us that what we have is never enough. There's always more, more, more. If we keep chasing every breaking wave we divide ourselves from the things that really do matter - God, family, friends.


Stanza 2

The next stanza in U2s Every Breaking Wave is definitely a conversation between two lovers at a important crossroad in their relationship. Let me clarify or amend what I said in my deconstruction of the first stanza. Yes, I believe in those waves the enemy is waiting. After all, the sea, as mentioned before, in this song is in fact the enemy. The waves are also opportunities and here we have two people in what they believed to be an unbreakable bond realizing that they are one step - or one wave - away from being swept away from each other and perhaps all they hold dear. Their faith in God, faith in each in anything. It goes to show just how powerful Satan can be and just how easily we can succumb to his evil.

                                                        If you go?
If you go your way and I go mine

These lines are the heart of the conversation. The couple is faced with a dilemma, perhaps one that hasn't been communicated very well up to this point which is why the end result could be devastating - leaving the two lovers walking down separate paths in separate directions. The crashing of the relentless waves their only soundtrack to mark where they've been and where they're going. The choice could be a career opportunity or could be an addiction. No matter what, the enemy is ready to crash another wave.
                                                     Are we so?
Are we so helpless against the tide?

Helpless is the key word here because they know what's at stake and they don't feel equipped to handle the potential outcome. So many times I hear of people divorcing or separating over trivial things. In my opinion it's because the relationship was based on too much of the wrong emotion or something that gave the illusion of a real emotion. Once tested, they falter because there is no substance to what they have - or thought they had. 

The tide here is the enemy rising and taking over the hearts and minds of his victims. Once in the tide it may feel like we're helpless and that there is no escape. Those with faith know better. We've all had to dry ourselves off and catch our breath from being caught up in the wrong situation or in a collection of debilitating thoughts. We have the scars to prove it. Question is, are you using those scars for a reminder of our sins or are we using it as a reminder that the One we believe carries a clean slate in his pocket?

                                                     Baby every dog on the street
Knows that we're in love with defeat

When Satan "left" heaven he took about a third of the angels with him. They became demons. And as horror-movie as it sounds, demons, just like angels, exist. Good thing is the angels outnumber the demons. The bad news is that Satan and his posse (the dogs on the street) know our weaknesses. They know we struggle with self-confidence and we hit rock bottom our attitude becomes blurred. We're bombarded with doubt and fear and we want nothing more than to lose. The enemy puts the idea in our heads and hearts that we're worthless and this will be the best we'll ever be. There's no way up.

But there is.

         Are we ready to be swept off our feet
                                                        And stop chasing
                                                        Every breaking wave

I picture this couple only moments away from ending their relationship until the final seconds when both of them realize at that same time there's one thing that they have forgotten. Maybe they have forgotten it during this conversation or perhaps it's something they have never fully committed to. I picture one of them kneeling down and (I actually like the idea of the girl praying b/c I picture the man being torn between choices) pulling the other down on their knees, looking out over the crashing waves and praying, "Dear Heavenly Father, help us now with this decision in our lives. Help us Lord to determine which wave, which opportunity has your blessing and will be the right choice, the right wave for us. Lord, we ask now for strength against the enemy. Strength against his tide. Help us to praise you Lord no matter what circumstances we're in. We thank you Lord for standing on the shore always watching, always there and never leaving, never straying, never short-changing your mercy, grace and love."

Yes, the crashing waves of Satan can sweep us off our feet, but so can the Holy hands of God. Through His love letter to us, we can learn which are the right decisions to make. With our strength fueled by our faith we realize every breaking wave isn't constructive to our lives. Through daily prayer and fellowship with other believers we learn to recognize the right wave to take.

Our choices today effect whether or not we get to choose tomorrow.

Closing thought: My pastor said this past week that we are free to choose in all we do. But we can't choose the consequences.


Stanza 3

I love the poetic beauty in the third stanza of this song. The powerful imagery either plays a movie in my head or makes me feel like I'm in an art gallery gazing upon a detailed painting.

The waves in this song - or story - can't be boiled down to one thing. I think it depends on what specific season the character is in. If  every wave represents temptation, addiction and so on, then we need to keep in my mind and heart that the crashing waves can take us to shore (the arms of God) if we have made that decision of acceptance in our lives.

So far in the song the main character is seeing these waves as opportunities when really they are temptations - things that will inevitably pull him away from what truly matters. At this point in this particular season of his life he has yet to differentiate the waves that perhaps society wants for him and his very own wave that represents God's will and path for him. Sometimes our own ambition is suddenly hit with blindness. And maybe deafness too.

If he were to catch a wave right here, right now he would be overcome by the illusions of success. Illusion or not, it's still failure. He could always be washed ashore with the chance of trying again, but that's a decision he has to make. Nobody can make that for him. Not even the woman he's about to abandon over selfish pride.

Every sailor knows that the sea
Is a friend made enemy

We've all experienced it. Life is nothing but smooth sailing and then out of  nowhere you're in the midst of a storm. Surrounded on all sides by raging and relentless waves, we're capsized. No explanation as to why. It just is. The glorious sea with the sparkling sun glistening over the surface was a click away from being a framed photograph. Then in an instant the calm sea became a tumultuous enemy. What's a sailor to do?

And every shipwrecked soul, knows what it is
To live without intimacy

Being shipwrecked doesn't mean you're dead, but it does mean you obviously got off of course. The man now has either already decided to chase the breaking waves or he's letting his lover's prayer resonate. He's perhaps doing what I'd imagine most people wish they were better at - contemplating the consequences of your actions before actually doing them. If he turns his back on his girlfriend or wife, he's creating a possibility that they will never be together again. Men (and woman) walk out on their families all the time. I wonder if they regret it or are they that far removed from being a decent person that they never look back. Other than with God, being shipwrecked alone leaves no opportunity for intimacy. That's what we're here for. To construct, maintain and sometimes rebuild intimate relationships. But sometimes, we need the sea to turn enemy and become shipwrecked in order to realize what is most important. For me, I think stories of  redemption are the most fascinating and heart-wrenching.

I thought I heard the captain's voice
It's hard to listen while you preach

When God speaks, do we listen? Or are we too caught up preaching to others? But I'm not sure that's what's happening here in this part of the story. I think the character here would no exactly what to preach if given the right platform. And I think he knows exactly what to believe, but just because you're preaching doesn't mean we're listening to the captain's voice. And it certainly doesn't mean our actions are reflecting what we believe. He has told us and showed us everything we need to door to steer clear of and drive ourselves out of trails and tribulations. If we're caught up with our own agendas we don't hear Him talking to. We don't even hear our own voice because it's being scrambled by Satan. Our best ideas, thoughts, revelations and epiphanies don't always come when we're talking, but rather when we're sitting in complete silence.

Like every broken wave on the shore
This is far as I could reach

The Lord has plans for us to prosper - even before we're in the womb. Whenever we reach a point that we feel we down for the count and just can't take one more step, we're putting up road blocks on our destined path. It's easy, sometimes too easy, to let unfortunate situations take our thoughts captive. It's too easy sometimes to let our thoughts defeat us. It's too easy sometimes to believe the lie of those thoughts. Because that's exactly what they are - lies. Lies are from the enemy who wants to destroy us. Hope is from the Lord that wants to pick us up, brush us off and have us keep on going - with no memories of the past.

Our character here is believing the lies. Believing that his past wasn't good enough so it's worth walking away from. He always believes that his future doesn't live up to the hype. Losing before you even play the game - it's a difficult hole to climb out of.

He has plans for us to prosper, but when we chase all those waves - all those lies about how life could be better if a different path (or wave) was taken - we send out a grand invitation for doubt. With doubt comes a sleeping bag of fear and the belief that we are simply no good. Or even worse, our desire and passion of wanting and being more wanes. This is what happens when we hang out with Christ-less people that are riding the wrong wave that don't even acknowledge the shore. 

Out in the ocean, and it may be days away or years, is a wave that we are meant to catch and ride to shore. Some waves break or never amount to anything, but patience and prayer will get us on the right one.


Stanza 4

The sea knows where are the rocks
And drowning is no sin

Sometimes we choose the wrong wave. After much deliberation and pray, we still select a wave that seems inviting and adventurous...a wave that seems meant to be, but contrasting the time spent contemplating our next move, we quickly found ourselves struggling to the surface. We're underwater, feet tangled, and we see the light, we see the life that seems within arms-reach, but reality seems distorted. The sea, remember, symbolizes the enemy, the one that gives us everything we need to do the complete opposite of what we are meant to do and be. He gives us doubt and fear - the two very things that keep us from reaching the light. The two things that wrap around our legs as we struggle for the surface. As our lungs tighten...fear and doubt seep in. If we so choose. The sea knows where the rocks are. The jagged cliff-sides that when thrown up against pummel our self-belief and weaken our spirit.

Drowning isn't a sin. Failing is never  a sin. It's a test of faith. Will we succumb to the doubt and fear or will he give praise for what we learn and what we gain while we fail. The dawn comes like it always does. We choose if we use that light or if we tight-fist the fear. Drowning isn't the end-all. We need to focus our attention to the shore and the outstretched arms that await. We are created out of an unfathomable love. We are not fish in an aquarium to Him. Christ is always there. It's up to us to decide whether or not we have enough faith to walk on water towards him and sink and surrender to the power of the sea.

You know where my heart is
The same place that yours has been

Here, the man is saying both to his lover and to God that is heart is where it's always been. And it's spoken with the best intention, but also in hope that it's true. Doubt is trickling. He wants his heart to be where it's always been and is hoping his decision on which wave to choose won't go against what he's stood for his entire life or at least during his current relationship with his lover.

Right now, his heart is pounding. He's well aware that choosing the wrong wave could leave everything he lived for in the dust. And when dust faces water...water wins. Every time.

Both have, up to this point, put everything into their relationship they. Everything was going so smoothly, but tides swell and recede with constant repetition bringing with it doubt and fear. Sometimes the tide wins. Sometimes life seems greener on the other side. Sometimes it is, but choosing the wrong wave to get there only leaves floundering victims.

If his heart is where it's always been and his heart has always been facing the shore, he'll be able to untangle himself from drowning (failing). Upon resurfacing, life may be different, but the path that the shore gives, provides us new opportunities to fight our right path.

                                                           We know that we fear to win
And so we end before we begin
Before we begin

Whether we like it or not or even realize it or not, fear is a part of us. Every day we need to do what we can to drive out that fear or set up blockades in effort to prevent it from ever entering our hearts and minds. It's all part and parcel to this human gig that we signed up for.

And so with that fear and doubt we end before we begin. We are born sinners so we begin with burden on our backs. We must shed those burdens, look passed them and choose to proceed to the starting line. Every day we must make this decision. Giving into the sea around us makes the ultimate outcome seem further and further away. Out of reach. Out of touch. Out of options. Every day when we give praise for the return of the dawn, we must choose to shed the fear in order to face the victory that's been mapped out for us.

If we do that, we will end before we begin the way God wants us to end before we begin. We must strive for his finish line. We must begin with the end in mind. His end. His home where our struggles and our repeated drownings will all seem like a blur. An end where we are home with our Savior.

We also fear what's good for us. What will make us better, stronger, braver. We fear making different choices. We fear breaking away from complacency. Why? Because the sea doesn't want us to find our wave - the wave the will keep us reaching for the shore. Reaching for Him. Embrace new opportunities - opportunities that seem bothersome or stressful. But every breaking wave reaches the shore and tells the next one there will be one more. Because through Christ, we can handle anything. Get through anything that comes crashing our way. We must with relentless passion always ride towards the shore. We will not however, reach the shore if we never choose a wave. It's the only to get through the sea.

Dream Out Loud,

Here's a link for an amazing live performance of this song.


Anonymous said...

the best ever interpretation thank you God bless you

Ryan S. Graybill said...

Thank you so much! Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Wow.... ������