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David Dunn: The Theology of “For the Life of Me”

March 28, 2012

My friend David Dunn just released his new album recently called For the Life of Me. It’s really a great album, both lyrically and musically (if you’re into pop music) – and so you should go buy it from iTunes or Amazon right now. I’ve had a few weeks to listen to it, and have been thinking about the theology behind each of his songs. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to share what I see behind the lyrics of each song. Here’s what I found:

1) “Ready To Be Myself”: This song wrestles with the desire to please others above God (Galatians 1:10), only seeking the adoration of others – but the firm resolution to seek the approval of God alone as he says “well done” in the end (Matthew 25:23).  I’ve joked with Dave about this song having a deeper meaning though: it being his declaration that he needs to get rid of his “pop” exterior and get back to his acoustic roots – i.e. stop trying to please others (playing pop music) and do what he does best (write acoustic songs). This is ironically proclaimed in a typical pop song to prove the irony of the song. I still think this was really why he wrote the song – he’s just not willing to admit it yet. 
2) “Sing Loud”: A song about praising God for others to hear about his glory. Echoes of Romans 10:14-15 and the need for us to share our faith about a God of grace.
3) “Heart Isn’t Whole”: A song about the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts. Dave probably doesn’t realize this, but he’s taking language from Blaise Pascal’s Pensees, which hearkens back to St. Augustine’s  famous quote in his Confessions: “Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

4) “Traitor”: A retelling of Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:15-25, that he “loves what he can’t stand,” and his heart is deceitful and a traitor (Jeremiah 17:9).

5) “Heart Stops”: A warning/encouragement to “make the most of your time” (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5) before you breathe your last breath and “your heart stops.” Reminding us that our God is always watching from above (Prov 15:3, Heb 4:13).

6) “Fighting”: I’m not sure if this reference was in mind for David, but this song makes me think of 2 Corinthians 5:10 and being recompensed for the deeds we’ve done, or perhaps 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 about our deeds either being burned up, or refined in the fire. His line about everything “going up in smoke” seems to allude to this, but then he assures us that “everything will be remembered” like what is mentioned in Luke 12:2-3

7) “Lightning Storm”: “Feelings lie.” I’m willing to bet David wrote this in light of Fred Lybrand’s class at MCA in high school, and his proposition that “feelings lie.” He questions if “following your heart” and “feelings” is really the best method for direction – or if it will bring you into danger more often than not.

8) “Ode”: A song of praise for a God who knows us and yet still loves us as we are – yet does not leave us as we are: he makes us new (2 Cor 5:17).

9) “We Sing”: Another anthem for all of creation to praise God (Ps 148), or more specifically, for us to bring him praise so that the rocks don’t have to (Lk 19:40). All praise is due to God’s name, so this is a call for the nations to bring him what is his (Psalm 29:2).

10) “Not Soon”: Dave’s defense of the fact that he’s the only child (of 6) in his family that is not yet married. Apparently he doesn’t plan on being married soon. Sorry ladies. 

Overall, I’m very encouraged by the theology of this album. Lots of good reminders of things it seems like Dave is wrestling with in being an artist and writing music. I’m glad there’s more explicit references/allusions to Scripture in this album than his previous release. Now if he’d just go back to being “himself” and record more acoustic songs than power-pop stuff…

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