Listening to music helps me connect with my inner self, past the thinking part and down into the feeling part. Music guides me around some of the barriers that I tend to put up, beyond the superficialities and down into the raw, the untamed and the real. ‘Songs that make me feel’ might become a new category of posts.
Sometimes it’s the beat itself that carries me somewhere unexpected and other times it’s a random part of an otherwise ordinary song. At the best of times it’s a song that transports me because the tune, the vocals and the lyrics come together perfectly to draw out my soul and bring me where I don’t easily go.
I have many goto songs that do this for me and I love stumbling across new ones every now and then.
Take this for example. A few days ago my wife and I were listening to a Walk Off the Earth YouTube video where they were playing a medley of Beatles’ songs. As they smoothly moved from one snippet to another, I was singing along. They got to ‘Hey Jude’. I don’t think it lasted more than 10 seconds but out of nowhere as they hit that note I started crying.
I rarely cry.
This was out of the blue. There wasn’t a set up. We hadn’t been talking about sad things and I wasn’t really in that space. Yet, within a second, I cracked. The medley quickly moved on and so did I. When it ended I told my wife how one part of the medley had brought tears to my eyes. Of course she wanted to know which one it was so I played it back to show her, thinking it wouldn’t have the same result. Just as I was going to tell her that this was the part, they hit that note. I could not get the words to come out of my mouth. Again I was flooded with sadness. My eyes teared up and I couldn’t say anything. It felt great and awkward all at once.
A few weeks ago as I was letting Apple music choose my music for me I came across a song that had me suddenly feeling awakened and filled with a sense of “yes! I’m here and this is me whether you like it or not.” The song was putting words to an ever growing part of me. It’s not the kind of music that normally takes me there but this one did and I’ve been listening to it over and over since. The ease with which I was able to instantaneously connect with the song and it’s ability to reach down into my soul and connect me with some of my fears, my frustrations and my joy all at once had me dancing.
Let me explain. My life has been shaped by the Christian faith. One version of it anyways. I grew up in it and embraced the beliefs for myself at a young age. All my life decisions were tailored by this faith and a desire to please God, my family and the church. Towards the end of my 20’s and into my 30’s I began opening up to different ideas and to question my theology and my faith. Always in a very calculated way ensuring that while my worldview and theology was changing I would be careful to stay within the general accepted boundaries of my tradition and upbringing. It became, and continues to be, more and more difficult to do.
Much has changed. I feel more like an outsider now most of the time. Some of it is of my own doing. I can get stuck in my head and because I’m so afraid of displeasing the church, I keep most of it bottled up inside. This makes it difficult to fully engage relationally with others. Part of me knows that if I was to be fully honest I could very well be rejected or cast out as a heretic. I may very well be projecting the worst case scenario because of other stories I’ve heard and some I’ve witnessed. I continue to be in this middle place, wanting to move forward but afraid of the repercussions that could come with it.
To be branded a heretic by the tribe you identified with all your life is not a pleasant idea. I can hear those who would say that I probably just need to read my bible and pray more, or repent, or trust Jesus more, or have more faith, or maybe I was never really a true Christian and now I need to reject religion and choose Jesus instead. Take this pill and all will be well again.
Enter Bebe Rexha. You can listen to the song here if you would like but be warned, there’s explicit language.
Welcome to my world. Sometimes a random song takes you by the hand and you just let it take you wherever it is going.
It’s a little bit of rebellion mixed with some heartfelt, “I am ok even if you might think I’m not! You can peg me in a corner and I’ll own it if it makes you feel better but in reality I’m ok where I am.”
To me, in that video, Bebe Rehxa represents the person who has come to change some of her/his beliefs or someone who simply doesn’t quite fit the mold anymore. Maybe they never have. The person who sees things a bit differently, who’s view of the world is less of an us vs them, who simply can no longer sit in the pews and affirm some of the things that are taught and some of the ideas that are valued. The typical prescriptions have lost their effect.
If it’s crazy to question and to doubt and if it’s crazy to change your beliefs (or some of them, little or small) even when it’s quite different from what you previously held to be true and might be contrary to your church community or church denomination’s preferred beliefs and if it’s crazy to be your true self as you journey and navigate life, well, ok then, I’m gonna show you crazy.
Maybe you’re like me and you are sensing that your previously held beliefs have held you back or are holding you back. Perhaps some of those beliefs simply don’t add up and don’t work anymore (did they ever?). As you grow, as you change and as you interact with life and those who are a part of it, you begin to see that many of those firmly held beliefs seem off, contradictory and lacking. They simply no longer add up and don’t line up with reality. You are no longer able to honestly say ‘yes’ to parts or maybe any of it.
You’re not throwing the whole thing away (maybe you are and that’s ok) but you are simply in a place where new lines are being drawn. Actually, you’re not drawing new lines because those lines were part of the problem in the first place. To many of them within which you are supposed to fit and not cross. You are pushing them further and wondering if they can be replaced with something else. Something better. Something more human perhaps. You have some ideas but can’t quite put your finger on how you’ll get there. It’s a process and if your life was deeply rooted in those beliefs, it’s a complicated and scary one.
If you’re a christian and find yourself in this place. I understand. It’s difficult. It would be nice to flip a switch and either return to the simplicity of the past when questions where few and far between or fast forward into the future where everything is clear and figured out. No such switch exists.
Know that you are not alone. There are many in that same place. Many who at this point in time prefer to stay silent. Perhaps the price is to high right now. There seems to be to much to lose. I know the feeling. I was there and to some extent I still am. Others of you are beginning to speak up and you are on the lookout for others with whom you can speak freely without fear of being repressed and called back into line. You are not trying to be troublesome, you’re simply wanting to be true. When you read your bible or when you look at the world, you simply see something different.
One of my greatest desires is to help people like you, like us, make sense of things. Places to think, talk, share, grow and be crazy heretics (not that we are). Places where we can be challenged in our thinking while not being pegged as heretic or sinful for understanding things differently. Any relational place has risk attached. I don’t know that there is such a thing as a ‘safe place’. The point is not to run away from where you are (maybe you must) but it’s mostly finding room to breathe so that we can continue engaging and thriving where we are. Maturity requires being true to ourselves while also listening to the other, hearing where they are at and being ok with it. It also requires an ever growing ability to be spoken to, be receptive and remain humble. Growth is stifled by arrogance and condescension.
More on this over the next weeks and months as I reflect on shifting beliefs and recovering from church. Walking this complicated path without losing yourself, without disengaging, figuring out when to speak and when not to, identifying the toxic and holding onto the good, etc.