Thursday, July 1, 2010

Listening

As I expected, I received some loving but firm emails from people who read my blog the other day when I wrote about some of the music I listen to sometimes.  I want you to know that I truly do appreciate that there is concern for my spiritual well-being (I mean it - thank you).  I also wanted to explain a few things, so you can see where I'm coming from (and where I'm not coming from) not because I feel I owe anyone any explanations, but because I want to share what God is teaching me through it all since I love to do that sort of thing (smile).

First, let me say that I try to be led by the Holy Spirit in every area of my life.  As a result, I actually do listen to more positive, uplifting and encouraging music than not.  I love praise and worship music and would prefer that over anything else most of the time.  I don't feel guilty when I listen to "secular" music, though.  I learn from it.  Let me explain.

I feel that sometimes secular music is very honest - these are people who are expressing themselves through artistic ways - the way God created them to express themselves.  I have an artist son who expresses himself through photography, for instance.  Sometimes I get freaked out by his photos - they can be weird at times - but he's expressing himself.  It's how he cries out and expresses the hurt in his life - the pain and rejection.  I believe music is a way that people do that, too.  When I'm hurting, I write poetry.  Sometimes it's very honest and some people may not like that.  But it's real.  It's who I am.

Listening the Pink Floyd the other day, I honestly heard something I'd never heard before.  I heard a man who is confused about who God is.  He sang in one song "When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye - I turned to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now - the child is grown, the dream is gone.  I have become comfortably numb."  I imagined a man who was looking for the Truth - but every time he'd look for it, it would be snatched away.  This immediately reminded me of Luke 8:12 - "Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved."

There was more in his music that told me this man has a very twisted view of God.  He imagines that God is judgmental, cruel, ready to throw everyone "up against the wall".  It seemed to me that someone at some point, some one who confessed to be a Christian in his life has treated him with such contempt that he has labeled God as a result.  He feels judged, confused and to ease his confusion, he tries to numb himself and makes assumptions, all the while expressing himself through his art. 

I will be honest - I actually shed some tears as I listened to his hurt and pain.  I wondered if making music like that was his way of shoving out the people out of his life who would refuse to listen to his "devil music".  What if someone listened, understood and prayed for him?  What if someone had approached him, in love?  The thoughts flooded my mind.  I can say it was convicting - something I know most people wouldn't understand could happen through secular music, but it happened to me.  I'm just being honest.

There's another song from a secular band called Linkin Park that I listen to sometimes.  I like their music, though some of their songs I cannot listen to out of personal conviction.  However, there is a song they sing where they say "Crawling in my skin...these wounds they will not heal.  Fear is how I fall - confusing what is real."  Gosh, I can relate to this!  I remember when I was seeking the Truth in life - it was just like that.  They are expressing themselves.  Another song they say "Put to rest what you thought of me while I clean this slate of uncertainty.  Let mercy come and wash away what I've done.  I'll face myself to cross out what I've become, erase myself - forgiving what I've done."  Sounds like a guy who is hurting and is seeking forgiveness to me.  There are many more examples I could share with you - but I think you get the point.

I'm not telling anyone they need to go out and listen to secular music and try to analyze and spiritualize all the songs. I'm not trying to make excuses.  I'm being real (something, I've told you, is very important to me).  I hear the hearts of these people.  Some of the secular music is just gross - horrific if you ask me.  But a lot of it is just people that God created who are expressing themselves and trying to deal with the confusion, hurt and pain that they have in life.

Most people who are not believers tell me that Christians just don't take the time to listen to them.  I know that's true with me sometimes.  I feel I'm right and I get pushy with my beliefs.  Maybe if I would listen to what people are saying and pray for understanding...maybe if I would remember where I came from and be reminded of the deception that is in the world...maybe then they would see I am trying to relate to them instead of pushing them away again?  As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit of God in me! He will lead and guide and direct me.  I cannot be afraid.  He will tell me when I shouldn't listen to something.  He will convict me when I'm crossing the line.

Often I feel that we are afraid - afraid to face what people are feeling and expressing.  But we don't need to be afraid.  God doesn't give us the spirit of fear!  Every love song that is written is written from that place God created in each of us to be loved and to love - but often we hear the words going to someone that cannot love them back the way God can.  Listen.  Really listen.  There's more to the music than we assume.

Important note - if you have a conviction about listening to secular music and it's coming from the Holy Spirit and not a place of legalism, you need to heed this warning.  You must obey Him!  We all have different convictions.  For instance - I don't go near alcohol because I used to struggle with alcoholism, but another believer may be able to have a glass of wine without any problems or convictions.  We must not judge others, though, if they do not have a conviction about something.  We must trust that the Holy Spirit within them will lead them.  If we want to pray for them or even confront them in love - it must be under the guidance of the Spirit of God or it's just us trying to do His judging job for Him and I can tell you from experience, it will not go well!

Paul talked about this from the perspective of eating in Romans 14.  Some of the folks were hung up on what they should or shouldn't be eating in order to be a "good Christian".  It's the same deal - no matter if it's what we eat, what we read, what we do...these scriptures apply.  Romans 14:3-4 "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant?  To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."

And finally, Titus 1:15 "To the pure, all things are pure..."  and Matthew 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart - for they will see God."


I see God in His creation.  I hear Him in music and in lyrics, sometimes even when the people who wrote it are not Christians.  Sometimes I just want to rock out and I just enjoy the music.  Other times I'm introspective.  Sometimes I just want a good cry.  I like music.  God created me this way.

I have to have a good balance - but I cannot keep turning my head from the cries of the lost.  I hope you will not condemn me for my personal beliefs - but even if you do, I still love you and welcome you to grow with me. :)  Listen today...with new ears.  Look...with new eyes.  Ask Him to show you something new today.  And don't be afraid when He does.

3 comments:

Pete said...

Thank you Leslie for these words. There needs to be more discussion in the Church about matters of opinion, particularly with respect to use of media.

There is a big difference between rationalization for the sake of personal indulgence and God giving a believer a clear conscience. Christians need to wrestle with the application of Romans 14, 1 Cor 10:23-11:1; and Col 2:16-23. The Lord has given us clear instruction about how we are to handle matters of personal freedom.

This is vital for the modern church. The church in America has a well deserved reputation for being judgemental towards some sins while easily overlooking our own. We sneer at rock stars and homosexuals while basking in our pride and gluttony.

I suspect part of the reason Christians struggle with what to do with modern media is that we have our own music industry. The development of a Christian subculture has given us an entire world of products designed for church consumption. So when we listen to the world's music, we take attention and business away from the "Christian" market. The problem is, the word "Christian" wasn't designed to be an adjective, but a noun.

Being in the world but not of it involves engaging the world on its own terms. It means noticing the idols in our midst so we can address our culture in ways that are relevant (Acts 17:23). It is true we need to be wary of things that distract our attention from Christ. A good guide for our attention is to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, etc. (Phil 4:8).

However, a good barometer of our hypocrisy is found in asking ourselves whether we are as discriminating about what movies we watch as we are about our music? Are we as cautious about what websites we visit as we are about what radio stations we listen to? Because if we are not, we reveal about ourselves that our interest in selecting certain "Christian" things to do is a matter of personal preference and not necessarily a measure of spiritual maturity.

Leslie Nease said...

GREAT thoughts, Pete! Thank you so much - I sense you are also very passionate about this whole thing! Great scripture references, too.

Again, thank you - and many blessings to you & your family!

Kerri Fenn said...

I just found your blog with this post, however I wanted to say that I have long connected with secular music. Something I have done for years is sung love songs to God when driving in the car etc., because I feel personally most of them describe a love that could only be sane with God not to another human. Anyway...thumbs up and Amen ..I look forward to continuing in following your blog. Thanks for sharing =)

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