A 90’s Ska Band Has the Best Metaphor for Christianity

With it being “Holy Week / Passion Week / The Week Before Easter” at the time of publishing this, I thought I’d write a little snippet about my faith.

I’ve been a Christian since I was in elementary school. Over the years, my faith has “wavered” a lot. Faith and doubt have always coexisted in my life. Sometimes it’s 90/10, other times it’s 10/90. But just like the questioning is always there, so is the belief. There have been different anchors for my faith, from individuals to books to movies. One of those anchors is music.

Christian music has always been…cheesy. On one end of the spectrum, you have the super-spiritual bands that recycle the same churchy phrases everyone uses. On the other end, you have the “bands who are Christians” and write very vague and abstract lyrics that can sort of be about God if you think about it hard enough, but they really just wanted to be in the Christian book stores and Christian radio. In any case, the actual music was always an imitation of what was popular in the “secular” world about 5 years before.

Ok, enough mocking Christian music.

There were a few gems in the mix though, and one of my favorites was a less well-known and under appreciated ska band called Five Iron Frenzy.

First, I know ska isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I get it. But get past that, and their lyrics had layers of depth beyond the typical Christian band. Their songs had harsh critiques of American history, political allegiances, and the social structures of Christianity, something Christian bands aren’t supposed to do if they wanted their CDs played in youth groups across America. That won my respect. But more on that in a separate article.

Their songs about faith explored issues that weren’t really talked about, but we all felt, and those lyrics resonated with me in high school. Rather than take from existing phrases and metaphors, they created new expressions to describe faith. As I look back now, many of their songs have shaped my faith and worldview.

One of those is a song called “Dandelions.” It opens with a story about a boy in a field:

He is young, so full of hope / Reveling in tiny dreams
Filling up his arms with flowers / Right for giving any queen
Running to her, beaming bright / While cradling his prize
A flickering of yellow light / Within his mother’s eyes
She holds them to her heart / Keeping them where they’ll be safe
Clasped within her very marrow / Dandelions in a vase
She sees love where anyone else would see weeds
All hope is found, here is everything he needs

In this short narrative, the song paints a picture of our relationship with God. We are the boy. And in this metaphor, God is the mother (which I love, but the way).

Within my faith, I’ve always had guilt. Not necessarily from my sins, but more so from my lack of action. I’m haunted by the reality that I’ve been given so much in terms of privilege and resources, yet I’ve done so little good with them. I often look back and see a wasted life.

I feel as though I’m offering God, and the world, weeds. Yet it’s this song that gives me the hope, whether it’s true or not, that God sees flowers.

I was reminded of this the other day when our family went to the park. My 2-year-old son ran through an open field picking up daisies. Not the big beautiful kind. The tiny weedy kind that grows on lawns. He shoves some in his shirt pocket and fills his hands with some more. Then he runs to mom, full of joy and so excited to give her the daisies he picked.

My son picking daisies. Photo by author.
My son bringing flowers to mom. Photo by author.

Those tiny lawn daisies, like dandelions, are worthless. I’m just saying, you’re not going to find a flower store selling them or even giving them away for free. People buy chemicals to kill them.

And yet, that act brought so much joy to me and my wife. We of course took the flowers home and put them in a tiny vase… until they died a few hours later.

But my wife didn’t see weeds, she saw flowers. This song literally captured a real life scenario and tied it so beautifully with faith.

It goes on to explore that a little more:

Fathomless Your endless mercy / Weight I could not lift
Where do I fit in this puzzle? / What good are these gifts?
Not a martyr or a saint / Scarcely can I struggle through
All that I have ever wanted was to give my best to You

There’s this heavy narrative in Christianity that we’ve been given gifts for a specific purpose, that we have a specific role in a grand master plan, and that God has a specific path and purpose for every stage of our lives, from where we live to what we do to who we marry.

If we mess up or go in the wrong direction, we’re outside of God’s purpose. We stress out (or our church leaders and Bible teachers stress us out) about finding out exactly what God’s purpose for our lives is and following that precisely. If we do anything outside of God’s blueprint for our lives, then we’re wasting it and “settling for God’s second best” (yes, that’s actually a phrase Christians use).

It’s a narrative that’s resulted in guilt, in big decisions I wouldn’t have made, and worse, inaction in my life. It’s restricting and exhausting. This song captured that inner turmoil. I’m not a martyr or a saint. I’m not a pastor or a missionary or Christian music artist. I’m not a philanthropist or a doctor or a teacher or a firefighter. I’ve served in my local church, volunteered for nonprofits, and given to charity, but I usually question if any of that has any lasting impact. Most times I’m just struggling through with daily life trying to hold it all together and doing the best I can.

I don’t know if I’m fulfilling my life purpose. Some of the best moments I have to offer to God are maybe when I’m extra attentive to my family. Sometimes when I text someone to see how they’re doing. Or trying to help someone out who needs it. It’s small and seemingly insignificant. Most times I feel like all I have to offer is just weeds.

It goes the same for my faith. I don’t have the greatest faith. I’m not the person to go to if you need prayer. I can go weeks without opening my Bible. Sometimes the best I can inch out is showing up for church or reluctantly saying a quick prayer because someone asked me to. Weeds.

Yet, in case the metaphor wasn’t clear enough, here’s the chorus:

Lord search my heart / Create in me something clean
Dandelions / You see flowers in these weeds

It’s liberating to know, or at least think, that small actions matter. That God sees the heart of what I do, even if it’s weak. That faith, no matter how great or small, is still faith.

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3 thoughts on “A 90’s Ska Band Has the Best Metaphor for Christianity”

  1. I have been a Christian three decades. I came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as an adult husband and father. I raised my children to love God and obey Him. In all these years I served in only two churches under two pastors. My wife and I dedicated our lives to serving in the organized church, thinking we were serving God. But when we needed to be served, to be helped because we were struggling, no one came, no one called. Not even the pastor. So now I wonder, was I fulfilling my purpose? Did it count? I love my God. I trust my God. For 3 years now I have only been a visitor to organized church. A spectator. Afraid to get involved. My heart tugs at me when I hear the need for people to serve but my mind hesitates. And so I sit there frozen in fear and indecision, wondering would I be serving God? Is that my purpose?

  2. In The Bible it States “where there is 2 or more present in my name I will be there”, I love bible studies with me my pastor, my wife and a few friends so we could really talk about The Bible and our take on certain things, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a big organized church. God bless

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