U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” used to bother me. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved the song since the first time I heard it. Sweeping lyrics, subtle (but stunning) guitars and a hopeful inflection all come together in a beautiful way. It’s my favorite U2 song. But for years, the song left me with a cold, uneasy feeling.
The song is full of longing. Early in the song Bono (or his character) is on a quest, searching for someone or something. Each verse is punctuated by the chorus – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
The song takes a significant turn in the third verse. It becomes clear that the search is for God. The verse includes one of the weightiest lines in rock music:
“You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains. Carried the cross of my shame, of my shame. You know I believe it.”
Bono’s reference is clear. He is speaking of his belief in Jesus’ death on the cross (a death that paid for the sins of you, me and Bono). Why not stop there? Isn’t the search over at the foot of the cross? But Bono doesn’t stop there and that’s the rub. He finishes by singing the chorus three more times – “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
What more could he be looking for? I just didn’t get it. Then it hit. Bono may be talking about the ongoing struggles of living in a fallen world — the pain and brokenness all around us. He maybe speaking of the temptations he faces and the ones he falls for. We Christians can be selfish and discontent. I really think it’s all of these things. And I can live with that. The Christian life is more about journey and relationship than it is about a destination.
When I was in seminary, I found another helpful way to look at this. The biblical scholars often point out that the Kingdom of God is both “here, and not yet.” Jesus brings abundant life here and now and throughout eternity in Heaven. We experience the Kingdom now, but more of the Kingdom will come when we enter the presence of the Trinity.
I know Bono’s not a trained theologian and he’s rough around the edges. He’s not consciously thinking about the “Here, and Not Yet” aspects of the Kingdom, but I do hear his longing for Heaven. It is a longing shared by every person — a longing that intensifies after salvation. Looking through this lens, I must admit, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”