Life, Learning, and Legacy: Switchfoot – If The House Burns Down Tonight

Family Legacy

Life, Learning, and Legacy: Switchfoot – If The House Burns Down Tonight

Eric DunavantJuly 22, 2019

Ashes from the flames

The truth is what remains

The truth is what you save

From the fire

And you fight for what you love

Don’t matter if it hurts

You find out what it’s worth

And you let the rest burn

 

In 2016, Switchfoot released the album, “Where the Light Shines Through,” and includes a song called, “If the House Burns Down Tonight.” The song was written about the California fires bearing down on the homes of members of the band. Personally, as I listen to the song, it brings me back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and many of my memories about our experience.

 

The sunset burns like gasoline

Touch me and make sure that I’m not dreaming

I see her face and my heart skips beats

But I still get the feeling that we’re half asleep and

There’s a spark in the corner of my baby’s eye

Like a distant start that won’t burn quiet

And I might not know what I want from this life

But I know I want more than the starting line

 

I still remember where I was August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on the panhandle of Florida. My wife and I had left for a vacation in Phoenix, Arizona, to visit some friends. We had moved from Phoenix to Louisiana a couple years before, and were looking forward to spending time with these friends again.

On a Saturday morning while I was on a mountain bike ride, Angel called saying I needed to get back to the house to watch the weather. The hurricane had moved from Florida toward Louisiana, and our lives were about to change.

 

So give me the fire

 

I can hear the motor running down the interstate

And all the distractions fade away

And if the house burns down tonight

I got everything I need with you by my side

I see the smoke piling up in the rear view mirror

Yeah but I ain’t ever seen it any clearer

And if the house burns down tonight

I got everything I need when I got you by my side

And let the rest burn…

 

I still remember sitting in our friends’ living room watching the weather, watching the strength of the hurricane increase, and watching it bearing down on our home. Our cat was left at home.  We hadn’t done anything to prepare. Angel and I could only look at each other realizing that everything we had may be destroyed. What were we going to do about it?

Did it matter? If it was all gone, would we be able to step back and recognize we still had the most important things?

 

I’ve given too much of my heart away

My soul’s holding on like a house divided

Like a match it burns down like a masquerade

And I had to let it go when the fire ignited

 

One heart, two hands, your life is all you hold

(your life is all you hold)

To hold, hold tight and let the bitter go

Yeah let it go, and give me the fire

 

Leaving Phoenix, we weren’t able to immediately return back to the New Orleans area. We ended up going to Angel’s parents. While we were there, we had no idea what devastation was waiting for us at home.

All we could do was look at one another and realize we had the most important things we would ever need, each other. Our family was together, and if we had to start over, that’s what we would do. But, it still hurt.

Had we lost everything we owned in one day?

 

The smoke tries choking the pacific sun

We rocket down the road like we’re shot out of guns

And if the house burns down tonight

I got everything I need with you by my side

Holding you and the wheel and it occurs to me

We’re driving down the edge of eternity

And if the house burns down tonight

I got everything I need when I got you by my side

And let the rest burn

And let the rest burn

 

I remember the drive from Dallas‑Fort Worth down to Mandeville, where we lived. I remember wondering, the entire time, what I was going to find when we got there. I kept reminding myself at the end of the day, it really didn’t matter. I had to put myself in a position of total surrender, understanding losing everything was okay. It wasn’t easy, but it was okay.

 

Put your hand in mine and

Put your heart in driving

We got everything we need yeah

We got everything we need yeah

Left it all behind us

What we need will find us

 

We finally arrived at our home and, compared to our neighbors, we did quite well. There were only two trees sitting on top of the house. We quickly cut those down and covered the damage with a tarp.

The worst part was cleaning out the refrigerator, which had been sitting for a week and a half. Surprisingly, our cat had survived, although quite traumatized. We had everything we needed. God had protected our home. It was amazing to take a step back and realize how little the things that we owned mattered.

 

And all those lies that mattered most to me

Were draining me dry making a ghost of me

And if the house burns down tonight

I got everything I need, everything I need

There’s a fire coming that we all will go through

You possess your possessions or they possess you

And if the house burns down tonight

I got everything I need when I got you by my side

 

Although I never want to go through that experience again, it certainly brought a new perspective that I’ve tried to live out ever since. I can have my possessions, or they can have me. At any moment, each one of us is only a few breaths away from losing everything, whether we realize it or not.

If we hold on too tightly to possessions, we miss the opportunities that come from what we have in our lives that matter most. This song from Switchfoot is one of my and Angel’s favorites. We are often brought to tears when we listen to it, but the lesson that it teaches is so important. I can’t imagine living life any other way.

 

About the Author

Eric DunavantEric is the president of Paradiem, a man devoted to God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

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