This one comes to us from Will Ryan.

I have an hour-long one-way commute. I can drive that path without much thought anymore, so I get a little bored. I now have an Audible subscription, and that helps. I subscribe to any number of podcasts. Sometimes I even listen to a baseball game.

Recently, though, I’ve been going into my music app, going into the “songs” category, and pressing the shuffle button. I get a tour through all of the different music selections I keep on my phone. I go from the blues to Bach, T-swift to T-pain, Kendrick Lamar to The Killers, even Lifehouse to Lyle Lovett. It’s a fun game to see where my different tastes at a particular time lay.

One day, a song deep the recesses of my high school days came on. Penned by Jesse Lacey of Brand New, the name of the song was, “Seventy Times 7.” Now I wasn’t “emo” per se, but I dabbled in that sort of thing. Maybe it’s because I’m a 5w4. Maybe it’s because hormones rage in adolescence. Maybe I was pushing back against my pretty typical Midwest upbringing. Who knows? Either way, the song popped up. Here are a couple of sets of lyrics:

As if it happening wasn’t enough
I got to go and write a song
Just to remind myself how bad it sucked
Ignore the sun, covers over my head
Wrote a message on my pillow that says
“Jesse, stay asleep in bed”
Don’t apologize (I hope you choke and die!)
Search your cell for something which to hang yourself
They say you need to pray
If you want to go to heaven
But they don’t tell you what to say
When your whole life has gone to Hell!…

So is that what you call a getaway?
Tell me what you got away with
Cause I’ve seen more spine on a jellyfish
I’ve seen more guts on eleven-year-old kids
Have another drink and drive yourself home
I hope there’s ice on all the roads
And you can think of me when you forget your seat belt
And again when your head goes through the windshield.


This story is a bit apocryphal, but apparently the lyrics were written after the girlfriend of Jesse Lacey cheated on him with his best friend, John Nolan, formerly of the band Taking Back Sunday. Though the song comes out of a place of pain, that doesn’t really excuse the lyrics. They’re cringe-worthy.

I remember blasting the song while I worked through the wreckage of my high school relationship. I had visions of weddings, storybook endings, and living happily forever and ever, but she didn’t. Together for a year and a half (which seems like forever when you’re 17), we broke up my senior year.

Instead of maturely accepting her decision, I drove around screaming my head off with Lacey. Forgiveness wasn’t directly on my mind at the time; anger and injustice were all I thought about. I felt as if I had been sinned against.

The memory of these emotions came rushing back. With the opening guitar riff, I’m transported back in time, and a flood of feelings drop on top of me as I drive on a black-top in the middle of cornfields.

The pain, the hurt, the grief are all palpable. I know they say the olfactory sense is the one connected most to memory, but it wasn’t that day. Auditory ruled the day.

It was only when I got home and told my wife about the almost out-of-body experience that I had a realization — the title of the song (“Seventy Times 7”) is an obvious reference to Jesus.

“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy times seven.’” (Matt. 18:21-22)

Even if that person does stab you in the back literally or metaphorically, even if they steal your girlfriend, even if they shatter the dreams you made up for both of you, you need to forgive them. Forgive them even if they do it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. You can see where this is going.

I wonder if this was a Romans 7 instance for Lacey — “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Maybe he knew he should forgive but couldn’t. The Law Jesus lays down is impossible for him. He titles the song as a reminder for all to see.

While a random song from my past brings out the emotional reality of a teenager, I am reminded each week in the Bread and Wine of the one who does indeed forgive seventy times seven times. No matter what I do, no matter where I go, no matter who I am — I am already forgiven because of Christ’s act in the Cross.

And that’s a song I’ll listen to all day.