Readings — From the March 1999 issue
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From “What Would Journey Do?” by Bill Wasik, in the September 24, 1998, issue of The Weekly Week, a humor magazine published in Somerville, Massachusetts. “W.W.J.D.” bracelets were created in 1989 to encourage teenagers to ask “the question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ with each decision they made”; since then, over 14 million of the bracelets have been sold in the United States alone. Journey, a rock band, released eleven albums between 1973 and 1986, including Escape and Frontiers, both of which reached Billboard’s Top 10 chart in the early 1980s.
You’ve all seen the “W.W.J.D.” bracelets and T-shirts that remind teens and adults alike about a good rule of thumb for living a holy life. Many, however, ask themselves these questions: Does Journey know about my battles with the enemy of my soul? Do they understand the fierce temptations that challenge me? Do they have any clue what I am going through—the sorrow, the sadness, the depression that overflow my cup? I’ve been betrayed by a friend, a lover, someone very dear—does Journey understand?
I am here today to tell you that Journey DOES understand. Because, my friend, Journey has been there before.
SITUATION ONE: Gregg and Heather have a picture-perfect marriage. The two are young and wildly successful—Heather is a bank-credit analyst, Gregg a top loafer salesman at a department store. But Heather’s job requires her to work long hours, and Gregg often feels neglected. If she really loves me, he wonders, why is she away from home so much?
It’s the quintessential modern struggle: a two-income family, overworked, always pressed for time. You may wonder how Journey, who walked the Earth so long ago, could relate to a problem like this. But did you know that Journey faced precisely this same dilemma—nearly twenty years ago?
In Frontiers 5, 0:48, they tell the story of a musician, always on the road, and the woman he’s left behind: “They say that the road ain’t no place to start a family. But right down the line, it’s been you and me. And lovin’ a music man ain’t always what it’s supposed to be. Oh girl, you stand by me. I’m forever yoursfaithfully.”
Faithfully. It’s clear that Journey intends a double meaning to this term: faithfulness to the absent spouse, yes, but also faith in Journey—and their power to heal broken relationships.
Devotional meditation: How secure is my faith in Journey? When is it strong? When does it falter?
SITUATION TWO: Alice loves her boyfriend, Sam, deeply. They’ve shared long conversations, walks on the beach, romantic dinners by candlelight. But now Sam is pressuring her to have sexual relations with him, and Alice doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t feel comfortable having sex before marriage, and someone has told her that Journey thinks it’s wrong.
At many points in the Albums, Journey speaks out strenuously on this subject. And their message is always the same: “Any way you want it—that’s the way you need it.” False prophets who tell you otherwise are leading you astray. Do not pay them heed.
The most striking passage on the topic comes from Departure 1, 0:50: “I was alone—I never knew—what good love could do. Then we touched, and we sang, about the lovin’ things! All night, all night—oh, every night!”
Devotional meditation: Do I love to move? Do I love to groove? Do I love the lovin’ things?
SITUATION THREE: Martin has reached the end of his rope. His happy marriage, his beautiful family, his thriving bakery—none of it means anything to him. At night he finds himself awake, alone, wondering: if all life ends in death, then what’s the point of going on with it?
Journey was no stranger to existential hunger. Escape 1, 2:02, perhaps captures this hunger best of all: “Workin’ hard to get my fill—everybody wants a thrill. Payin’ anything to roll the dice, just one more time. Some will win, some will lose—some were born to sing the blues. Oh, the movie never ends: it goes on, and on, and on, and on.”
In the face of such sorrow and hopelessness, does Journey go on to say that we should give up the fight?
Instead, we are told to not stop believing. To hold on to that feeling.
May the streetlight person in each of us have the courage to listen.
Devotional meditation: Have I ever stopped believing—in life, in love, in Journey? When weighed down by the cares of the world, have I let go of that feeling? Have I taken a midnight train going anywhere?
More from Bill Wasik:
Six Questions — June 2, 2008, 1:36 pm