Do you remember that one concert where you played through an awesome song set nearly flawlessly? And then the euphoria turned to depression because hardly anyone was there to hear it. Maybe that was just me. My greatest suffering has come from an expectation beyond my gifts. I’m most unhappy when I cannot love the music I make because of the response I don’t get. It’s like pulling off an incredible high note, and knowing that most people don’t even know what key you’re in. or that you nearly ruptured a kidney to hit it.
That’s probably why most of us spend too much time trying to impress other musicians, because at least they understand what you are doing. Oswald Chambers said, “Many of the things in life that inflict the greatest injury, grief, or pain stem from the fact that we suffer from illusions.” Like the one I have most often, that if I am really good I will magically float to the top of popularity. Or maybe in Christian Music it’s that if you are really right with God, He will choose you to lead the masses out of bondage to the Promised Land. Personally, I don’t think Moses played a guitar.
One thing I’ve had to repent of in recent years is that I have too often been ashamed to call myself a “Christian Musician”.
One thing I’ve had to repent of in recent years is that I have too often been ashamed to call myself a “Christian Musician”. Yes, the label is pretty restricting in music circles because it conjures up this awful illusion of someone “who couldn’t make it in the real world,” or maybe it’s the typecasting that you are embarrassingly narrow minded and could not possibly embrace true artistic endeavor. Let’s face it, there are snobs in every line of work. But the real suffering here is that I might have an illusion about what I think other people think.
Occasionally I will do a concert at places that can’t afford anything. I call them ‘secret service’ gigs. Like the Men’s Recovery facility I visited this month. Standing before a room full of men who have pretty much lost everything through hard living, I suddenly realized that songs about girls and cars, and defiant Rock ‘n Roll were about as anemic as you could get in this world. But with every song I delivered I felt a strength of purpose that only comes with singing my faith. Singing songs of faith goes way beyond the top 40. Not only was I offering strength to these men (and they were responding with enthusiasm), but I was also finding my own strength of faith in simply doing what I love. The best thing about Christian music is that the songs come with a light at the end of this tunnel.
I think I was surprised here because I had no expectation at this event. I didn’t pull up in limousine, rock star fashion, proving my talent by showing my wealth. I had no entourage coming to this smelly half-way house. Nobody here knew my name or had any of my records. And there was an awkward silence when I walked to the front of the room unannounced because none of us could see past our own assumptions. As soon as I began to express what I’m learning with music I realized something I too often forget; that the medium of music and lyric has a power all its own. It needs no other authority to invade a man’s soul. We discover feelings we didn’t know we had until they were drawn out. Too often I’m too busy tightening the nuts and bolts of the mechanism to actually see the miracle.
The worst thing I do as a musician is to discount the power of a song because it didn’t meet some expectation I carry around subconsciously. There might be a reason why a simple song gets the best response. Because maybe there’s nothing hindering the feeling it evokes. A feeling that gets lost too often in too many arpeggios. Don’t let your expectations ruin the moment.