Andrew Peterson's The Last Frontier:
Why don’t the mountains make me cry no more? / They don’t sing the way they did before / They’re just piles of stone / Dead as bones /Like corpses on a field of war /And they just don’t make me cry no more /And the highway’s like an old sad song /People moving through their lives alone /On the run from grace /From place to place /Like fugitives without a home /And the highway’s like an old sad songAnd my heart is black as coal /It’s been mined and there ain’t no gold /It’s so dark in there /But I don’t care /I will lay down in this empty hole /Where my heart is black as coal /And there is nowhere left to go from here /I have fallen past the last frontierBut at the bottom of this well I hear you breathing: /Love below me /Love around me /Love above me /Love has found me /Love has found me here //So lay me down / Lay me down in a field of golden // Lay me down /Lay me down in a field of gold and green
The song is a portrait of the despair and hope of the human condition. In Verse 1 he starts off with the question simply paraphrased reads : why doesn't beauty move us to tears any more? Why does everything around us seem lifeless? Where has the life gone? The condition we find ourselves is one in which living no longer enthrals the way it was intended. The meaning and vibrancy of life has been lost. Mountains have become mere "piles of stones". No deeper reality to their form - no beauty to behold or a startling design to acknowledge. It is a picture of a naturalistic view of life that has sucked meaning out of our existence and left us no different from the world around us. We too have to intents and purposes become “dead as bones”. It is a tragic condition that has left us as mere random wanderers on the lifeless "highway" of life, moving from “place to place”, but without any purposeful movement. On "the run" but running from the "grace" of life that offers real purpose in existence. It is sad existence played to "an old sad song".
The highway of course points to a shared meaninglessness. But the paradox is that this common experience is one that at the same time has left us living "alone". We are forever finding ourselves in "networks" but with it increasing loneliness. The run to naturalism has not brought us true community, it has left us lonely and in despair. Communally we are broken, individually we are slaves of the forces around us. The impersonal relations have replaced the personal. There’s a lot of Cain about our condition that is implied in this verse. Like our ancient ancestor we no longer see the beauty in the garden. The living mountains have become lifeless. Like Cain himself we are wanderers, “fugitives without a home”. Our whole lives have now become an expression of meaninglessness and loneliness.
In Verse 2 we move from the general to the particular. The focus now is on the individual. What does this lifeless, lonely and empty existence mean for me? The answer is that is simply stated“my heart is black as coal, it’s been mined and there ain’t no gold”. As a theological statement it means that in our blackened state there’s no good that we can reach out for help to get us out of our predicament. We have tried mining ourselves through blood sweat and tears! But this is more than a theological statement it is an expression of what we feel. Deep down that we feel we are valueless. Our clinging to sin is the ultimate expression of how little we value ourselves. Hence the line, “but I don’t care, I will lay down in this empty hole”. We sit on the muddy throne of sin because that is where we feel we belong. Rather than an expression of human quest to aspire for something greater, sin is an expression of our degeneracy. But it is also an expression of hopelessness. Why do we want to remain in this empty hole? Because we have looked at our hearts (“black as coal”) and concluded, “there is nowhere left to go from here, I have fallen past the last frontier”. And this hopeless is now lived in many difficult conditions we find ourselves in. Without hope our lives have become a living expression of death. We are the living dead like the zombies in the movie Resident Evil.
But it does not have to be this way. Yes, on the naturalistic view of life your life is meaningless. Yes, your life is indeed lonely on this highway. Yes, there’s no good in your heart. Yes, there’s no where left for you to go. And yes, your life has effectively become an expression of death. But there’s hope. Verse 3 reminds us that at the “bottom of this well”, at the bottom of the pit of life, you are not alone! There’s someone living and breathing there. His name is Love. He is below you because he was there before you. He is above you because he is not on your level. He is around you because He is with you. And more important He has come for you – so He has found you! At that precise moment when your life looked so bleak he was there. No, he is there! For it must always be in the present. God who is the unconditional love is at the bottom of the our wells. We may feel hopeless, destitute, abandoned and struggling! But God’s message is that if you have repented and turned to Him. God has already restored you in Jesus! And not only that God is living and moving in your heart! He is walking in your shoes! God has taken up residence and He is ruling in your heart!
When we understand that we begin to live again. No, we begin to rest! Because now it is Him in the steering wheel of life! So appropriately the song ends with the lines, “lay me down, lay me down in a field of gold and green”. The loving arms of Christ has reached us at the bottom of pit, through his death on the cross. Through his resurrection he has restored meaning and existence. Through his Holy Spirit he now lives within the walls of our hearts! The final frontier of despair has become the final frontier of joy that takes us boldly where no man, except Jesus, has gone before! Amen!