My Morning Jacket’s 2011 release, Circuital, is destined for a Grammy nomination and deserves the award for best alternative rock album.  This charmingly creative record has subtle—sometimes, even, conspicuous—religious material.  “Circuital” and “Holding on to Black Metal,” for instance, reference Christ and Satan.   

Another track, “Outta My System,” provides an object lesson regarding the Christian virtue of repentance. 


MMJ sings of growing out of the youthful vices of drugs, sexual curiosity, and theft.  The message of the track, however, is mixed.  The lyrics limn these vices as unsatisfactory—“I know what I ain’t missing.” Yet, the song’s bridge describes the experience of these vices as necessary:

“If you don’t live now, you ain’t even trying,
And then you’re on your way to a midlife crisis.
Let it out anyway you feel
You can feel it in your bones, but try to deny it.
Wipe it off your face but your eyes won’t hide it.
You knew it all along but never made it clear.” 

Perhaps, these vices are a rite of passage, without which we will never mature.

Under an explicitly Christian analysis, several of the song’s presuppositions will not stand.  Most importantly, the way to get these desires “outta” our systems is not, in fact, fulfilling them.  We may gratify these desires and for a time feel satiated, but the desires will return with greater desperation.

We purge our systems of these desires by getting new systems.  We grieve that we have complied with them, ask the Lord Christ to forgive us these sins, and receive, by the Holy Spirit, a heart change.  In the age of grace in which we Christians live—between the first and second comings of Christ—we live with the complicated reality that we already have new hearts, but we are not yet fully rid of our evil desires.

When I first heard My Morning Jacket’s “Outta My System,” it brought to mind some of the notable sins from my past.  I realized that I can never be “glad I did it all.”  If I could look back at my sins with a glad purview (aside from the joy of forgiveness), then, likely, I have not truly repented of these sins.   

In the book of Romans, Paul transitions from a rich doctrinal discussion that focuses on salvation by faith to a discussion of this doctrine’s implications.  In Romans 12, he hones in on love:  “Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

There’s an application for us who believe regarding our former sins.  Our conversion saps the joy and the sense of nostalgia we may associate with our sins.  We come to abhor the evil we’ve done.  Christ’s redemptive work prevents us also from plunging into despair over these former transgressions.

For many of these youthful vices, I don’t know what I’m missing, and perhaps, I’m on my way to a midlife crisis.  That’s ok:  I’ll dye my hair or get a gym membership.