One of my favourite songs at the moment is Airplanes by B.o.B. It’s honest. Some people look at it and comment that he shouldn’t be complaining about his fame – because no one will feel sorry for him! They probably want what he has, shouldn’t he be grateful? I understand that point of view, but the more I hear it, the more I think I understand why the song is popular and why it resonates with me, and why it might with you, too.
When I was thirteen, I thought being sixteen would take away all my problems. As if on that birthday, something magical would happen and all of a sudden I’d have no wounds that needed to heal, no broken relationships and my tendency to speak before I think would vanish.
When that didn’t happen at sixteen, I turned my eyes to eighteen and projected all the same wishes onto my eighteenth birthday. You know how that story ends – I didn’t magically become perfect.
And so I set my eyes on moving out of home, and that solving everything. Step taken. No problem solved. In fact, it added challenges like needing to learn to use my money more wisely. I still spoke before I thought. Still do sometimes. But moving to another stage never made things better – things changed, but it was never quite the dream I expected.
That’s what I think B.o.B is talking about in Airplanes. A dream that doesn’t feel like it should, and he’s starting to miss the times when it was simpler, easier… even though he has success, he didn’t get the happiness he assumed would come with it. Living the dream can sometimes feel like more of a nightmare, he is saying.
Now he wants to wish on a shooting star, but he can’t see any. He wants airplanes in the night sky to become shooting stars. He wants a wish. He wants something to change. It’s something that most of us would agree with often. We need… something… And so we look to the sky and we wish.
The dream has become a nightmare and he could use a wish.
To use a favourite phrase of a lecturer, the ‘root theological errors’ in this song is that wishes make any difference and that our dreams are the ones we follow to make us happy.
Think about it. There is a privilege that we have. It is the greatest privilege in the world. It is the ability to communicate with the Sovereign God. I don’t need to wait for a shooting star. I pray. There is a quote from the To Write Love On Her Arms story that has always stuck with me. It is this:
“The stars are always there, but we miss them in the dirt and the clouds…”
Isaiah says that God placed the stars in the sky and he gave them each a name. Chris Tomlin also sings it, but I figured I’d take give Isaiah the credit. Hope that’s cool with you. The stars remind us that God is there. Or at least that’s what the remind me of.
God is always there, but we miss him in the dirt and the clouds. We can PRAY. It isn’t some mystic thing, or the chance for a nap during church on Sunday. When dreams fall apart, we can pray. We should pray.
Wishes aside, let’s go to dreams.
Happiness is not found in fame. It is not found in money. It is not found in a successful career. In fact, it probably isn’t found in glorifying God. But here’s the thing. It’s a secret that no one wants to tell you. It’s that God’s will for us is not our comfort, but instead our growth.
I’ve got a dream and it’s nothing like Martin Luther King Jr.’s. It’s that God will use me to do something. It’s sort of a simple dream, but I suppose those are the best sorts of dreams. I used to want to be a marine biologist, and then a music journalist. Then I was challenged to see where God fit in that picture – to see what he might be preparing me for, and what he had prepared me for me.
God’s dream is for us to live a life in service of the Kingdom, for us to accept his love as a child accepts their Father’s love, to obey him as a child obeys their Father. That can be done in whatever job you are in.
My point is that B.o.B got the dream wrong. The dream isn’t to be famous in the world’s eyes, it’s to be secure in the knowledge that you are known by the Father; that you are your abba’s beloved child.
I like the song Airplanes. But I don’t need a wish and if the dream is fame, then I am known by the only One that matters.