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#570 - "No Man Is An Island" by Tenth Avenue North
Jason Jamison shares the powerful perspective transformation that occurs when we let people know that we are for them, not against them.

After three successful albums and numerous hit songs, Tenth Avenue North releases Cathedrals on November 10. The latest from the band is a collection of songs exploring the nature of community and what it means to be a safe place for each other.

Lead vocalist Mike Donehey shared in a press release "So many of us live in isolation and we really don't have to. So the idea is: 'Hey get in the boat with us, sail by the stars of God's promises and reach the shore of community.' We realize that when we start to live together, we become the cathedrals on earth. We are the place where the Spirit resides. It no longer dwells in buildings but in each of us."

The band was struck by John Donne's memorable quote "no man is an island." Tenth Avenue North encourages us to realize God's spirit doesn't dwell in buildings. He dwells in us, because "we are His cathedrals." I had the opportunity to interview the band's drummer Jason Jamison about "No Man is an Island."

Please tell me the personal story behind this song.

This song is based on the pretty famous poem by John Donne. Jeff was reading it one day when we were writing songs, and he thought this would be a great idea for a song and was talking with Mike about it. We actually started the song together as a band. We were in a random dressing room somewhere in a basement of an arena in a smelly locker room on a big tour. We were messing around with writing some new music, and this song was born in that time.

We looked at the words, "no man is an island." As a Christian, the core of our faith is that we serve a triune God. He is Three in One: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That can be confusing at times. At the very core and essence of our faith is a God who has perfect community in and of Himself. He wasn't looking for friends and in need of someone to hang out with so then created us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a perfect community, and out of the overflow of that relationship, we were created.

This song is about how we are not meant to do life alone. So often we go through life and struggles, trials and difficult times, or even great times, and we try to do it by ourselves. That's not how we were created. We were created in God's image, for community. The beautiful thing as believers covered by the blood of Christ is that we are all of a sudden accepted into this incredible family. We have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world.

This song is a plea for community. There's a really strong line in the song: "I am for you." So often people will push back and fight you and don't want you to get too close, know them too well and be part of their lives. What we sometimes don't understand is that we have to be for each other. We don't want to be part of a community that points fingers at people, judging people, but one where we are for each other and want each other to win. As a body and community we should always want the people we meet to win. We need to tell each other that "I am for you, and I want you to come out of this on top. I am not against you." That's the plea of this song.

Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Romans 8:11 (VOICE): "If the Spirit of the One who resurrected Jesus from the dead lives inside of you, then you can be sure that He who raised Him will cast the light of life into your mortal bodies through the life-giving power of the Spirit residing in you."

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (VOICE): "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God!"

What is the takeaway message?

As a band, this song is really quite challenging. We live together in a 40 foot bus for half of our lives it seems with 12 other people. At times it can seem like forced community. We need to realize that community is never going to be super easy. Even in a tight community of guys that travel together, so often we can get into those times where you don't feel like being around anyone at all and you just need to get away. That line "I am for you" has been challenging me to think about whether I am for this community, and do I want everything to work out? Do I want to get through this situation and say at the end of the day that we are better for it?

So many times we go off by ourselves, hide away and push what we are feeling back and never actually deal with what is going on. Over the years traveling with this many guys I've realized that it is never good to do that. We need to work through situations the best we can, and we always end up stronger on the back side because of that. Community is not easy. It's difficult, but it is a worthwhile endeavor that we should all find as the body of Christ. The whole album is about going from 'islands of isolation to cathedrals of communion.' The theme of the album is that we are not meant to do this life alone.

We are built in the image of God, and we are made for community and also to realize that the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead now lives in us. The Holy Spirit lives and dwells inside of us. God doesn't dwell in man-made buildings, He lives inside of us. When we say cathedrals, we are talking about how we are the cathedrals and we are the dwelling place of God.

One of the main thoughts when you look at that is how so often as Christians we tend to separate "Christian" from "secular." We have this division line that unless something is labeled as Christian, it is secular. One of the amazing things we can take away from this is how if we are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, then wherever we go, that place becomes sacred. If I walk into a Starbucks now that isn't a secular place, because I'm bringing the Holy Spirit with me to grab a cup of coffee. Now it is a sacred place.

It is a whole mind shift that we don't need to have a separation any longer. We label our music as Christian or secular. I know a lot of believers who make what we would call secular music. What is awesome is that God has given them a platform that whatever music they write, or wherever they go, they are bringing the Holy Spirit with them. That bar downtown can also become a sacred place, which is a crazy thought, because all of a sudden we are breaking down barriers. That's the thought of Cathedrals, which is analyzing and thinking about who we are. We are not made to live life alone, but in community, and we are made to carry the Holy Spirit with us as His dwelling place. Wherever we go, we are making that place sacred.

I won't run, I will stay
I'm not leaving you
I know there's friction here
The struggle makes us new

I wish you never thought you had to go
Wish you never thought you had to leave
Together we can lift each other up
We can build a shelter for the weak

No man is an island, we can be found
No man is an island, let your guard down
You don't have to fight me, I am for you
We're not meant to live this life alone

I see fear in your eyes
There's no safety here
Oh, my friend, let me in
I will share your tears

I wish you never thought you had to go
I wish you never thought you had to leave
We can always lift each other up
We can build a shelter for the weak, come on

Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let's reach out to something higher
Ain't no life outside each other
We are not alone
Through trouble, rain, or fire
Let's reach out to something higher
Eyes open to one another
We are not alone

No man is alone
Why you try to fight me
We don't have to do it alone
We don't have to do it alone
We don't have to do it alone

A big aspect of writing these behind the song devotionals is trying to apply these songs and help people understand and think about what to do with this information. How do I apply this in my daily walk?

I love the nod in the opening stanza to the last album, "The Struggle makes us new." This idea of community and making us new, how we as Christians are "Cathedrals" or temples of the Holy Spirit, are the key takeaway messages of this song and album. Something the Lord has been teaching me in writing these devotions, especially this year, is to point people to the Truth of Scripture found in these songs of faith, as it can bring us back to Him.

A theme verse for me this year has been Romans 8:11, and God keeps bringing the Truth of His resurrection power through His Holy Spirit residing in believers to my attention. That's the beauty of His Word: it doesn't return void, and it provides a constant source of comfort, guidance and how to draw closer to Him.

The Lord wants to use us, drawing us closer to Himself and sending us out filled with His Spirit, as in Ephesians 5:13-14 (Voice): "When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light." I can't get enough of this song, especially the lyrics, "No man is an island let your guard down, you don't have to fight me, I am for you, we're not meant to live this life alone." Amen to that!

(Watch the music video here.)


NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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