I can remember the first time I felt music… not just heard it, but actually felt it. I was around 7 or 8 and I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana (my roots) at the time. Every year, New Orleans puts on the Jazz and Heritage Festival (more commonly known as the Jazz Fest now) and like good little Louisianans, my mom would take us every year. They set up several stages that span the entire festival grounds and it is amazing musical act after amazing musical act with miles of all kinds of artistic tents between each stage… and of course, some of the best food you’ll ever taste! I mean – it is Louisiana, after all. This particular year, back around 1991, there were a few art display walls set up around one of the main stages and I can remember weaving in and out of them like a maze while I followed behind my mom and ate my bubblegum blue snowball. We were so close to the speakers, I could hardly make out what they were singing, but I felt cool anyway. All of a sudden, something overtook me in my chest… I felt my heart thrashing in my ears and my first thought was that I was dying – obviously I was allergic to bubblegum snowballs and didn’t know it and this would be my last day alive! I didn’t realize it was the intensity of the bass from the speakers at the time. To this day, I will not eat a bubblegum snowball.
But from that moment on, all I wanted to experience was that feeling over and over. It was (and is) euphoric for me. To say I love to feel the beat would be an understatement… the beat of a song can send fire through my veins. My entire childhood and into early adulthood was spent building an outstandingly eclectic musical collection. I learned the piano, I wrote lyrics… I’ve always lived with this impossible dream of becoming a rockstar! In 2001, when I made the personal choice to serve God, I was taught early on that all secular music is evil because it sings of things other than God. So what did I do? I wanted to please God so I threw away thousands of dollars’ worth of secular music, tossed out all of the lyrics I wrote over the years of growing up and set aside my dreams of making music myself. (Let me just say: I’m not here to tell you if that belief about secular music is right or wrong. I believe everything you stand for should come from personal revelations and not just because someone tells you, “this is how you make it into Heaven.” Although leadership direction is extremely important and even necessary in our lives, so is seeking God for yourself and hearing what He says about things.)
Music was a constant struggle for me once I became “saved” (as they say). I love strong beats, heavy guitars and wild drums! I still drive with my music on maximum volume and my leg pressed against the pounding speaker so that I can constantly feel the music. Music has always been a way of escaping for me. Growing up, I never really enjoyed where I was in life. I didn’t have but one or two (amazing) friends. For whatever reason, people just did not like me and so I turned inward, put my headphones on and slipped off into a world where I was happy. I could literally see the beats coming to life and dancing before my very eyes… I could let my heart go and suddenly found a place where I was accepted and felt I belonged. The music didn’t care that I wasn’t a size 2. The music didn’t care that I wanted to wear blue eye shadow. The music didn’t care that I wasn’t funny and that I didn’t have the latest and greatest clothes or shoes or that I wore braces. The music didn’t judge and it was there that I could find myself free from every laugh and taunt and tease and I just let myself dance and dance and dance for hours on end. There. In the beat. In the music.
And so, while I now understand what my church at the time was trying to teach me, they were not taking the time to understand just what music meant to me… nor did they take the time to teach me to find that freedom in God instead of music. What I was left with was a hot mess! Because I didn’t know to find myself in God, I found myself in a cycle of constant condemnation because I believed I was going to hell every time I listened to secular music but as much as I did (and do) love Christian music (especially worship), I just wasn’t finding something I felt so connected to as some of the secular songs. For years, I carried around such a guilty weight because of something as silly as secular music.
Sometimes we make this thing harder than it is… actually, I dare to say – a lot of times we make this thing harder than it is. God knows me. God knows my heart. God created me. He created you. Before we were even born, He knew exactly what would make us happy, sad, angry, the things we would lust for, the things we would trip over. He knew that cockroaches would make me cry and that the sound of scratching on an acoustic guitar would soothe me to sleep. He knew that notebooks and journals would make me happy. He knew that I would love animals and the color blue and the sound a typewriter makes when you hit the keys. And He knew that I would love music.
He created me for music. He created me for worship. In a way, I appreciate that hard, long road of condemnation and crying over secular music struggles… it has led me to a deep, meaningful revelation of music for myself. Instead of slipping to a world of escape, I now let myself “come away” into a place of personal relationship between me and the God Who created me. He created me for worship. I used to sing on the worship team at my last church (which I sadly had to part from since I relocated to Texas). An accident back in 2011 with my back took me off of the team and I have been learning and discovering more and more about worship ever since then. During that time, a large growth on my thyroid was discovered. This growth kept me from singing because it was so large, it pressed against my vocal chords. It was utterly heartbreaking. I let this growth choke my worshipping heart out of me. I recently had a surgery to remove that half of my thyroid and as much as I was looking forward to singing again, I was terrified something would go wrong and I’d really never be able to sing again – ever. Today was the first day I’ve been able to try since my surgery and I was overjoyed when I was able to! It still aches a bit from surgery but I know in time, that’ll go away as it heals.
I told God that if He restored my ability to sing once more, I would never sing in fear and insecurity again. That’s a heavy promise to keep. But today I could feel freedom in my vocal chords. Not only are they free from the pressure of that growth, they are free from the pressure of condemnation and criticism and self-hatred… because I am free. And I will spend my life loving the One Who set me free with song and worship.
If you find yourself wrapped up in some struggle you just don’t know how to break out of, stop wrestling. He knows you. He created you. He knew you would be entangled with that thing. But more importantly, He knew that you would love Him. Let go and trust in the One Who sets you free. The road may seem long and it may twist and turn as you try so hard to do things right. But God says, “My beloved, beautiful one – why are you wrestling with Me? Come. Come here. Find your refuge here. You are the one My heart is for. Nothing you can do can separate Me from you. My love is too strong, it’s too wide and it’s too deep. Just rest here with Me and you’ll see. You’ll see.” Because He knows you. And He loves you. Rest in that tonight.