This year, lent has been about music for me. I remember warm tears on my cheeks riding home with my housemate Carl from a small performance at the Speckled Bird Café a couple months ago. I confessed to him how my heart was hurting. I felt really tore up about how much I loved creating and sharing music, and how little I felt it had to do with “the rest of my life” or “being a good Christian” or whatever. I guess at times it seemed like a solitary, self-indulgent hobby while I should be out advocating for the homeless and saving babies from burning buildings and single-handedly ending mountain top removal.
My MacBook Pro that I recorded on had finally bit the dust unless I had $1200 to resuscitate it. I had lost half an album’s worth of songs and all my gear was getting a little wonky- a broken mic stand, a perpetually out of tune guitar, broken keyboard knobs… I’ll spare you. And worst of all, I felt like I didn’t deserve nice things anyway. Something inside me would say it was selfish to spend money on myself and I should just make due. While something sincere in my heart desires a life of simplicity and deeply believes I will be provided what I need to be well and to give glory to God, I was indeed feeling short-handed and even resentful.
Why do I now ride a bike through this bone-chilling winter while the person I forgave for totaling my car four years ago gets off the hook? Why do I still care? Does God not care that I’m freezing and I can’t visit my grandparents or can’t lug my wonky music equipment around to play shows? Did I really forgive this guy? What the heck.
My pursuit of humility and simplicity and all these nice Christian things were making me miserable. I felt so disempowered to change anything at all, like circumstances were just the way they were, and God Works in Mysterious Ways and it’s my problem if I can’t accept that.
So where did that whirlwind of bad theology leave me with music?
We’ve all heard that humility is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking of oneself less. Somewhere along the way, a friend took that thought a step further and made it known that true humility is simply thinking of oneself accurately.
Such an ordinary notion radically shifted my perspective. That meant I didn’t really have to do anything special at all. I can just notice myself and who I am in the world already and just be grateful. Humility, activism, justice, voluntary poverty, these things mean nothing if there is no joy. This notion meant that it was okay that I make songs and doodles because I love it and they make me laugh and cry and it connects me with others, not because I ought to fulfill some obligation to the Kingdom of Heaven by decree of The Majestic Throne of Righteousness to save the world, or else. Lord help me.
So a few weeks ago, instead of continuing to mope around about my computer and whatever else, I put on my big girl britches and I asked the church I work for if I could use their equipment to record some sweet jamz that had been burning in my heart for my upcoming album. I was given a key and was shown how to set everything up which I interpreted as an implicit “yes.”
I enter the chapel where the sunlight pours in and my heart is a big, beaming, blossom of gratitude- for this space, this opportunity, the generosity of those who love me and equip me to do what I’m made to do.
“Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be lighthearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride.”
With that, I leave you with one of the firstfruits of my labor, a song called “Pride.”