June 10, 2013, 11:30 a.m.:
Team East was formed, and we began by sitting in a circle backstage and then saying one interesting thing about ourselves followed by one thing we hope to get out of the summer. My second statement was this:
“I hope and pray that this summer God will show me what to do with my life.”
But God cannot be put into a box. Likewise, when we pray, He is not bound by the answer we want, or the way we want it, but by the answer He gives, and the way He gives it..
And so before I continue with the story, I will rewind to approximately a year or two earlier, when the confusion began.
(Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey sounds)
I prefer the music I like. Why? It feeds what the emotions I like. Why? It has the beat I want, the drive I want, and the style I want. Of course, my taste for music ranges throughout several genres, but none the less, unless the music contains any innuendoes or swear words, I’m cool with it. So, great instrumental tracks combined with heavy rhythms and beats that make me want to hop around and pump my fists in the air.. That’s where I’m at!
But piano.. I started lessons in elementary. I was forced to practice. I quit. Things were said. I started lessons all over again in junior high with a new teacher. Since then, my parents have never forced me to practice, it’s just been a choice that’s been my own. And now, here I am. But when I’m surrounded by so many other kinds of music.. why devote myself to piano when I could engross myself in so many other aspects of music that I enjoy?
The irony? People always gather around the piano to hear me play when most of the time I feel like half of those people could be drawing a crowd of their own. They are just that good! Seriously, there are at least five other teens in my youth group who are just as able to accompany as I am, but I’m the one who plays. To me, this makes no sense.
My piano teacher has always told me this,
“If music is going to be your career, you better love it, you better have a passion for it, and you better be willing to work harder than anyone else at it, because that is what it is going to take to succeed.”
And so my internal response to this statement has always been this,
“Well how do I do that when I’m not even sure what I’m looking for in music?! Do I go this way, that way, or no way at all?!”
And so now we fast forward back to the present, which is June 12, 2013, 1:10 p.m.
(Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey sounds)
After being on Team East for two days, all of the Academy of Arts Travelers sat down for a sermon on music philosophy taught by Nicole Stratton. It was long, but it drove to the core of music:
“Music is a part of God’s nature. And like everything else in God’s nature, there is a structure to it. Twist and turn the structure, and you twist and turn God’s intent for music. That is where Satan joins the picture. He is a musician, and he is good at what he does: deception and music. You go one way with music, and it becomes who you are. So go the wrong way with music, and who you are takes a wrong turn, no matter how subtle it is. If you reverse the structure of music, it impacts your emotions differently. All music impacts the emotions, but the question is if the emotions are God honoring and glorifying. Because, music, like everything else created by God, was created for His glory and not our own satisfaction.”
I won’t go into the structure of music due to the depth within it, but please bear with me.
“Music is a language. And that being said, the music beneath the lyrics is just as important as the lyrics themselves. If not, the music is more important. Because, if you listen to a song with a heavy beat and bass which makes you want to hop around, thrash your head, and pump your fists in the air, how does that line up with Gospel lyrics? And yet, there are secular artists who write beautiful masterpieces that make you want to cry, innocently dance, run for joy, or simply sit back and think. You can take a Pirates of the Caribbean song (lets take “Up is Down”) and narrate the coming back of Christ. The music lines up! Does that not make your heart yearn for His coming?! How about this, take a musically fun song and picture a bloody and beaten man upon an old rugged cross. Does that line up? No! And I didn’t even have to tell you! The music told you! Music speaks!!!”
And that my friend, is the beauty of music. It speaks when so little else can. And when lyrics are set over music, the music can either change the meaning of the lyrics, or uphold and strengthen the lyrics.
Nicole ended with these verses, Matthew 13: 18-23, and when I took these verses to heart, a war began within me. Something inside me wanted change, and I refused to rest at ease until the war was resolved.
(Side note: Fast forward four months and my music philosophy was unrecognizable. I deleted 3/4 of my music library due to the Holy Spirit’s working in my heart, and I have no desire to go back)
And so I consulted, cried, prayed, searched the Word, and the summer continued.
I wasn’t very serious about piano. I was just naturally drawn to it whenever it was empty and I had time. However, the amount of encouragement I received from everyone during the summer can be summed in these three words, “An unbelievable amount!” Consequently, I played piano for offertory at many churches along with my teammate, Alex, who played clarinet. At one point, I played piano for an invitational. In fact, at one church my team leader, Will, came up to me and said, “You’re playing for the congregation in five minutes. You’re playing these two hymns and then whatever you want for offertory. I’m going to the bathroom now. See you then.” Surprisingly, I did well, but it was all to the credit of God because there was no way I would’ve done well on my own.
Towards the middle of my summer, he told me this,
“This is my advice to you, stop trying so hard to decide what to do with your life. Just let God show you. He gives us every gift for a reason. For example, in the Parable of the Talents, the Master gave each servant a certain amount of talents so that each would invest them and then return with more. When the servant who had received one talent buried it and then returned with only what he was given, the Master was ticked! What if the servant who had received five talents went and buried them also.. How much more ticked would the Master have been?! Yeah. Embrace the desires and talents that God’s given to you and then line them up with His Word. Just know that God does not call everyone to the ministry, but He does call everyone to a ministry, so whatever you do, do all to the glory of God and do it to the best of your ability.”
Now let’s fast forward to September 28, 2013.
(Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey sounds)
As I was reading through Exodus 3 & 4: 1-17, I realized that I’m just like Moses. God has been telling me through so many things/people/events, “Chris. This is it. This is what I want you to pursue.” But my response has always been, “Yeah.. but I’m just not good enough.”, “I don’t know if I want it badly enough”, “I don’t know if I love it enough.” “I’m just too lazy.”, “Way back, he told me so and so, and I’ve just come to internally believe what he said.”, “Why me? Choose someone else!”, or just “Yeah.. but.. but.. whatever.” But if God wants me to pursue music, who am I to say, “But.” He does great things through those who chose to submit to His will, and He always provides.
But in my opinion, the most beautiful part of music is what’s behind it. And the beauty behind music is this:
Pursuit. Every beautiful/powerful/inspiring/jaw dropping/incredible song that has ever been created or ever will be created, is created by someone who loved it enough to pursue it and work harder than anything else for it. Such musicians did not just pursue the beauty of music, they pursued the beauty behind music.
The reason why music is worth pursuing is because it is a part of God’s nature, and God’s nature is simply beauty in its purest form.
That night, September 28th, 2013, I had two college students separately tell me, “Pursue it.”
And I agree.
Piano major, here I come.
“We all have dreams, plans, and ambitions, but if your goal is to please the Lord, your motivation is the judgement seat of Christ.”