The other day I was thinking hard on the subject. There was a time when music was practically my life. Now I find myself avoiding it mostly. It almost always leaves me unnerved in some way. Secular music is hollow. Christian music, despite it's sincere message, leaves me wanting. Occasionally a praise song will break through. Hymns sung in church almost always do, but that's because they're in a league of their own as are the two singer-songwriters we discovered in Mexico. This league is untouched and, thankfully, unaffected by what I can only describe as an addiction I had to music years ago.
It may seem really strange to call one's interest in music an addiction but after many years I can look back, detached from it all, and see it for what I really think it was. Music was my world. It consumed me. There were countless hours spent listening to lyrics and instruments that very effectively lured me away from spending time with God and learning what God might want for my life, what His plan for me might have been. Other areas of my life were left malnourished and this makes me incredibly sad.
I realized this past month that I needed to talk about it here. Maybe because I think it might help someone else. I'm not exactly sure. What I do know is that this was/is a fairly large part of me and my story and I need to look at it head on. I need to acknowledge it's power and call it what it is instead of poo-pooing it away as understandable and excusable teenage behavior. If I do that, I'm not taking responsibility. I must admit that while, in many other ways, I'm pretty quick to bare my soul here, this issue leaves me feeling pretty vulnerable. It's taking some courage to write about it (especially in front of family), so please be gentle.
My first memory of music was getting a dark pink (very boxy-looking) boom box for my birthday when I was 11 or 12. My parents have a photograph of me holding it, grinning widely with my boy-ish haircut and pink and grey striped dress, complete with a bow at the neck. My next memory is of figuring out that when I recorded a song off the radio everyone in the room didn't have to be completely quiet. Wasn't that a relief? I had been freaking out when someone knocked at my door or a sibling barged in. A couple years later a girlfriend of mine and I started keeping a list of all the songs played on one of the local pop stations. Can you imagine?? We listed the title of the song and the artist and kept a meticulous list. I even alphabetized my list a time or two. It was pages and pages and pages long. If a song was on the radio, it was on out list.
Memorizing lyrics came next. If I could memorize Bible verses like I did lyrics I might possibly know whole books of the Bible by heart. Just the other day, out of the blue, the lyrics to LL Cool J's "I Need Love" jumped into my head and I was off, still remembering almost every single word of that ridiculous song (rap it- "When I'm alone in my room, sometimes I stare at the wall and in the back of my mind I hear my conscience call, telling me I need a girl whose as sweet as a dove. For the first time in my life, I see I need love. There I was..." ) As you can tell, I only memorized winning lyrics. At this point, I only recorded songs off the radio onto blank tapes. If I owned any real tapes, I can't remember them.
Around this time my friend base changed. I started hanging out with some of the greatest and most fun fellow middle-schoolers in the world (at a small, Christian school). They happened to be mostly boys. My best (girl) friend and I had the privilege of hanging out with some hilarious and amazing individuals, most of which were skaters. They donned the skater hair cuts, shoes, clothes and often the attitudes which got them into trouble with our teachers fairly often. Through them and some older skater friends of theirs at our school, one of which I had a herculine crush on, I was introduced to alternative and punk music.
Fast forward a few years and you'd find me in public high school spending every waking moment (other than church, work and school) living and breathing it. If it wasn't playing in my tape deck, I was in a record store (remember those?), in a car with the base literally willing my body to respond, in a friend's room hanging out (always with music playing), or (my all-time favorite) at a concert taking it all in live. My friends and boy friend during this time loved almost all the same music. If they hadn't, would they have been my friends? Thinking back, the memories wash over me. They were times that I still treasure because those friends of mine were the most incredible people. Sure, they dressed a little weird and often acted pretty strange, but we were all trying to figure out where we belonged and somehow that music tied us all together. 7 Seconds, Nine Inch Nails, Green Day, Sonic Youth, Ride, Stone Roses, Ministry (not the good kind, unfortunately), Jane's Addiction, Beastie Boys, Dead Can Dance, The Pixies, The Ramones, Social Distortion, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Love and Rockets, The Stone Roses, Bad Brains, The Clash, Descendents...just to name a few.
There was a time when my hair was bleached blond (and later, dyed deep auburn) and the bottom half was shaved with the top half chin length. I wore thrift store clothes, a lot of black, including long skirts, trench coats and combat boots. Steel-toed boots were very practical at concerts where your feet inevitably got stepped on. I did wear bright red lipstick in case you were worried that I was completely devoid of color.
This music drew me to places I knew I probably shouldn't have been, namely concerts. For awhile I kept a list of all the concerts I attended but at some point I stopped writing them down and the list is gone. Our favorite place to go was City Gardens in Trenton, N.J. Somehow even the look of the place didn't dissuade me because I was about to see a band that I nearly worshiped. It was a block building with no windows (red flag number one) that looked as if it had been abandoned. Inside there was a bar at one end (I honestly never hung out at that end- I was underage and didn't drink anyway. Jon Stewart bar tended there a little bit before my time.). At the other end was the stage.
The best "seat" in the house was right up against the stage as long as you didn't get pushed too hard into it. My boyfriend, in an act of appropriate chivalry for this occasion, would brace his arms against the stage behind me so I wouldn't get crushed. I was pretty tiny then. Many popular bands debuted at City Gardens. The agent that signed the Beastie Boys saw them first perform there. Depending on the band, the crowd would look pretty frightening to most people, but I had friends that looked like a lot of them and, hey, if they were there to see the band (like me) they must be okay. There were several rules: no slam dancing, no stage diving, and no spikes. Generally these rules were adhered to, but there were times when the mosh pit got unruly and some people (often skin heads) were escorted outside. In addition to concerts at City Gardens, the highlights of my summers from 1991-1994 were the first four Lollapaloozas. Think Woodstock for funky kids without the nudity and slightly less drugs.
None of this dissuaded me. I felt such a strong attachment to the music and held the band members in too high esteem. The night Thurston Moore dripped sweat on me...well...I was thrilled. And, despite a broken vertebrae (due to a sledding accident of all things), there I was, in my back brace, planted out of harm's way on top of a speaker by two guy friends, in Philadelphia at a Pearl Jam concert. Who was I??
If you've been reading me for very long, you know this doesn't really sound like me. And that is the point I am trying to make. My involvement with this music blinded me to good judgement. Being a teenager didn't help. But I must say that the music (and most secular music in general) made me feel invincible and it was this, I believe, that lead me into situations and circumstances that an otherwise good, Christian girl would not have put herself into.
If you're wondering about my parents, I will tell you (and them) that I never lied about where I was going. I may have withheld information about a place that might worry them because I didn't want them to worry. *I* would be fine. They walked a fine line with me and did so very well. If they would have pushed harder against me, my music and friends, I might have rebelled in different ways. And I knew, without a doubt, that they were praying for me. Those prayers were heard and answered. Prayers are always heard, but not always answered in the fashion we request. I thank God that my parents' prayers were.
Jamey asked me the other night (while we were looking up pictures of City Gardens online) how I came through it all unscathed. I truly believe that God was shielding my heart and my body. I became a Christian at 8 or 9 years of age. God was protecting me despite my disobedience, despite my turning away from Him and choosing a music (that was often flat out evil) and it's culture over time spent with Him and for Him. And I did it all right in His face.
Oh, Lord, forgive me. Your grace is all too sufficient for me.
How did I come out of it all? Well, I chose a Christian University where I couldn't find anyone who held the same music interests as I. My high school boyfriend broke up with me the summer after my freshman year. God started working on me big time and introduced me to Jamey, a strong Christian who just came away from a profoundly spiritual experience serving at a Christian wilderness camp over the summer. If someone would have told me a year before that I would end up marrying somewhat of a jock with short cropped hair who would later become a pharmacist, I would have howled. He does play guitar. I think God gave me that as a joke.
In response to God's leading and a very real experience with an evil presence (a story for another time), one day I chucked almost my entire (huge) music collection down the trash chute in my dorm. It brought incredible relief.
So this is why I don't listen to music. I've been there, done that.
And it all leads me to wonder. What's my current addiction? What I am throwing my time and energy into now that isn't all about Him? While may not be as blatant and obvious as music was for me in the past, I have my issues. Like music, I'm working on kicking them to the curb.
Sometimes it really needs to be all or nothing. Don't let our society or culture tell you otherwise. It's lying.