Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Music and Me

Music and I go way back. My mom still subjects visitors to old videos of me singing Keith Green classics. Watching teary eyed mini-me croon about my hard heart, old faith, and cold prayers is pretty funny. I always was an emotional kid.

That's what I love about music. It evokes emotion like no other medium. Steady drum. Ethereal keys. Acoustic strum. Poetic lyrics and soaring harmonies. There's a mystical connection that happens when music meets your soul.

As a teenager I gravitated toward secular radio stations because they unflinchingly expressed an angst that I felt, but wasn't vocalized in Christian music. The hopeful portion of the emotional spectrum was soothing to the Christian palate, but tumultuous feelings weren't considered edifying. Tension between mainstream and Christian genres evolved. Talented faith-based bands had to either intentionally leave God out of their lyrics to gain a broader audience, or confine themselves to religious themes to maintain their spiritual fan base.

I remember vigorously applying myself to The Newsboys and Delirious. And the crushing guilt I felt for secretly liking Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind. Feels like yesterday I was sneaking out of the car, making sure to readjust the radio dial to the frequency of heaven. The fact that I naturally loved radio hits, but had to force appreciation for Christian music sincerely confused me. I couldn't figure out what my problem was. Wanderlust? Wickedness? It had to be something awful about me.

Finally in May 2004 I gave up secular music entirely. A benchmark day for my willpower. From then on I listened to a regimented diet of worship tunes and KLOVE artists. Whenever those songs played I felt closer to the Lord. That had to be good, right? What I failed to notice was that as the years rolled by I steadily listened to music less and less until I heard almost none at all. I was stranded in the desert of musical piety.

A few months ago I was stuck in traffic with a friend. We were enduring another cliche Christian radio hit when he enlightened me. "I know why Christian music gets so boring." He said bluntly.

"What?" I turned, stunned that he had read my mind. "Tell me please!" My desperation a little too evident.

"They have to sing about the same thing all the time." He said with a hint of sadness.

"Yeah." I know this already, I thought. Why does it sound profound?

"Normal artists can just write anything they feel." He perked up and started humming. "High as a kite, I just might stop to check you out..." Now thumping on the dashboard. "...Let me go on, like a blister in the sun. Let me go on, big hands I know you're the one..."

"Yeah." I nodded, humming along. I rifled through a mental index of my favorite songs. Passionate. Unique. Raw.

"Creativity needs room." My buddy elaborated. "True artistry can't be confined."

"Yeah." I whispered, thinking hard. Something was connecting for me. Maybe that's what the problem was all these years? Maybe that was where the inexplicable attraction was coming from? Maybe it wasn't just that I was evil, but that there's something inherently attractive about honesty and artistry.

Could it be that it's actually OK with God to not be happy all the time? Could it be that He doesn't necessarily mind if the questions and melodies of another conflicted soul connect and give a voice to mine? The more I thought about it the more it made sense. Don't get me wrong, I'm not walking away from worship; that's still my bread and butter. I'm just realizing that He isn't demanding every song I hear be written about Him.

In fact, I think He's more easygoing than I ever gave Him credit for. It's not that holiness doesn't matter, it's just that rules aren't the starting place. I bet He'd even smile if I lived life with the windows down and the radio up. Grace can be very confusing. Guess I'd better get my dancing shoes. Karaoke here I come...


  1. Dancing shoes... Kareoke....Matt???? Wow!!! I want to be there. :-)

  2. So true about rules not being the starting place! God wants us to have Freedom. He doesn't want us controlled by legalism, perfectionism and conformity. Keep on writing!

  3. I like your writing because I never know what you're going to include - a Viloent Femmes reference - ha - that's great.

  4. Hey! Never read yer stuff b4. Refreshing. Well i say that because i live with Jonny who has always been of that opinion...but never knew of anyone else that was;) Yey! We aren't alone:)about the music i mean.

  5. Matt, you need to publish this stat.