This post is part 8 in a blog series that I have entitled “the wilderness between legalism and grace,” in which I share how I came to realize that I had an incorrect view of God and self and how I became free of the system of legalism whereby I was trying to earn God’s favor. You can view all of the posts in the series here on the series landing page.
It was my 19th birthday, February 2006. My mom gave me a music box that had a rose inside and played the song The Rose by Bette Middler.
That night my family spent several hours online downloading music – that song and others from that era of music.
That night was a turning point for me.
I was hurting. But for the first time in a long time, secular music was allowed into my life. I let down my guard, and I didn’t care about the rhythm or the beat, the “scooping” or the sliding.
I simply sang, danced, cried…
And there was freedom.
Music has always been extremely important to me – an extension of my being. And in this journey between legalism and grace, music has been one of the most instrumental things, a companion alongside me in my journey, as well as one of the biggest struggles that I’ve had to sort through.
During my teen years, I only listened to sacred/church music, hymns, or classical music. Everything else was sinful, worldly – and the few times I listened to anything else I was overcome with guilt.
But that night – and in the weeks to come – the music helped me grieve and gave me hope:
When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.
What happened that evening opened up a whole new world for me. I spent hours downloading music, checking out CDs from the library, and just laying in bed listening to secular music as I cried, felt the pain of loss, grieved, and healed.
“And someday soon I’ll wake
And find my heart won’t have to break”
“Blessed are all the left-behind
For their hearts shall one day mend”
By the time summer arrived, I started exploring country music and found out that I loved that as well.
The issue of music in the Christian community – what kind of secular music and even what style of Christian music is “lawful” for the Christian to listen to – is a highly controversial subject. There are a lot of great people on all sides of the argument, and honestly, it’s not something I want to get into here. But I would like to raise some questions and concerns – simply to get us to think.
One of the words that gets thrown around a lot in regard to music is “fleshly.” As in, if it “appeals to your flesh” (ie. if it makes you feel good) then it is “bad.”
I just don’t believe that anymore. We are fleshly, human beings. Our humanity is a gift from God. Yes, our flesh has been corrupted and perverted by sin, but ultimately, our human form was created to enjoy beauty, music, community, friendship, sweet food, entertainment, and dancing. To enjoy feeling. Our emotions are a gift. Yes, they need to be surrendered to God’s control and we need to take responsibility for them. But there is a difference between our “sinful flesh” and our simple “humanity.”
God never expects us to not be human.
“…for he remembered that they were but flesh…” Psalm 78:39
“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14
“…all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness therof is as a flower of the field; The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:” Isaiah 40:6
While I am using these verses out of context, I think the principle is obvious:
We are human and God knows that. It’s okay to be human and enjoy human things.
I think that music is one of those human things that God gives us freedom (er…dare I say “Christian liberty?) to enjoy.
I don’t have the perfect answer. Is music a black and white issue or is it a gray area? Is it possible that what’s okay for me is wrong for you, and vice versa?
(I have an opinion, but it might not be the right one.)
Music is an area of Christian living that I tend to be pretty pragmatic about. I’m just being honest here. Every song I’ve ever listened to or even liked may or may not be right before God, and I know that. But there’s been a lot of music, right or wrong – good or bad, that has helped me get through some rough times. And so, I’m very thankful for it – for the comfort, for the freedom, for the healing, for the feeling. For feeling human.
And I’m thankful for God’s grace – thankful to know that whether or not I listen to all of the right music or not, God still loves me. He can use even my mistakes to draw me closer to him, and he does. Every single day.
So, let’s tread carefully and respectfully here, but comments are open! What are your thoughts on secular music? Have you ever found that music you had previously considered “bad” or “fleshly” helped you through a rough time and made you second-guess your beliefs about music? Has listening to the “right” music simply been another way for us to try to earn the favor of God or look like a good Christian?
[Series Disclaimer: I have hesitated for a very long time in sharing this chapter of my story because I wanted to be respectful of people and places from my past and not call out their hurtful actions in a public forum. This series is in no way meant to be an exposé or a public “bashing” against any certain people, churches, or institutions. It is my intention with this series to be discreet and share only things that I feel are relavent to the over-all message I’m trying to portray. I’m several years removed from many of these memories, so this is an imperfect telling, but told to the best of my recollection.]
To view all the posts in this blog series, visit the landing page.
Next post, part 9: “I will keep believing that God still has a plan”