Making music is vulnerable. Here’s my heart and soul in a song, do you like it? That’s what we’re asking (through misty eyes) when we, as artists, show you our work.
Years ago, I was admitted to a mental hospital for the first time. Got out and was depressed for a solid year. I was suicidal. My stomach was in knots. I wrote a song about the experience a year later. Played it at open mics for 3 years until my fingers bled each time. Got access to a recording studio. Paid two-hundred dollars that I didn’t have to get a decent recording. Put the song on Soundcloud. 10 people heard it. Played it more at open mics over the course of four more years. A total of a hundred people have listened to it.
It’s hard work … but tonight, I felt a little victory.
I haven’t recorded many songs to date, really. I’ve been trying to piece things together and pay for studio time when I have the money or find friends who will work with me for free. Something switched in me, and now I’m trying to get some solid recordings down almost hurriedly. I released a song to Spotify last week and have been showing people and sending it to them.
Tonight, my friend, Caleb and I went to a bar called ‘Three Spirits Tavern’ in Bellevue, Kentucky and grabbed a few drinks. We shot the shit with the bartender and he made us some whiskey mixed drinks. He asked us what we did for work.
I feel nervous when I hear this question because what I’m doing right now isn’t exactly bringing in the cash. Sometimes, I feel like I should lie. And when I do tell the truth, I question if I should call myself a musician – he who doesn’t know all his scales.
“I’m a musician,” I said nervously. He asked what instrument I played and the kind of songs I wrote. “He’s got a song on Spotify,” Caleb said nudging me to speak up.
After some clarification on spelling, my song was playing in this bar over the speakers. We had been listening to solid music from the moment we walked in. Blackstreet, Alanis Morriset, The Verve Pipe all had been playing and when my song came on … it didn’t kill the mood. It kept pace with these great tracks I had grown up with. It was almost as if it belonged.
I was trying to hide my smile when the bartender said, “Play it again,” the moment it ended. I was one Vieux Carre and a beer deep at this point so, I was feeling pretty toasty.
I want to celebrate the victories right along with all the work I’ve put in. I must admit though, it doesn’t feel like work when it’s something I love this much.
I haven’t listened to many sermons in the last few years, but I did tonight. It was a simple message, but it helped me see some blind spots.
The preacher shared a quote from Voltaire. It basically said ‘God created man in his image and man has attempted to return the favor.’ What this means, is that we try to create a version of God in our mind that fits our life. If we value financial stability and providing for our family above everything, we twist God into this being that understands when we hoard our money and don’t give with open hands to the poor. If we value romantic relationships above everything, we twist God into this being that understands and welcomes our sexual sin.
The preacher said we should twist ourselves to align with God instead.
“There are things about Jesus that I don’t like,” the preacher said. “There are commands that Jesus makes that are hard for me. But we cannot twist Jesus into something we like. We must twist ourselves instead. Die to ourselves and learn to cling to Jesus more.”
He went on to say that Jesus was radical. Jesus didn’t know where he would eat the next day. Jesus didn’t know where he would sleep the next night. But he still relied on God. Because Jesus was radical, we should live radical lives too; giving our security away so our brothers and sisters can eat, abstaining from sexual immorality when the world promotes lust.
The preacher said the reason we are not content is because we don’t really believe that Jesus is enough to sustain us.
These are things I have been hearing in church circles for a long time, but they struck me tonight. Dying to myself is hard. Believing ‘Jesus is enough’ all the time is hard. But twisting God into my own image does not work.
Maybe it is because we know
even the atheist cries out, “Why God!”
on his most broken day.