I grew up in a musical family. Not just by-the-book kind of musical, but the feel-it-in-your-soul, play-by-ear, never-learned-to-read-music kind of musical. So I learned to play music. Technically. I took piano lessons and got to Grade Five (which, if you’re not a musical person, is actually not too bad), and I sang in the elementary school choir and played the flute through high school. In Grade 8, we even got to play on the steps of the Peace Tower in Ottawa.
But I didn’t inherit the musical gene. I don’t have a talent for it, and I certainly don’t feel it in my soul when I’m playing music.
But I do love listening to music. I even think of the phases of my life by the music I was listening to at the time. It has always been Christian music (except for the Weezer/Oasis years), because that’s what we were exposed to and given.
It started with Amy Grant and then Micheal W. Smith, the trailblazers of Christian music, occasionally crossing into the mainstream despite the protests of those outspoken “religious” types. That was public school.
Grade 8 came and I discovered DC Talk. None of my friends had any clue who they even were, and why anyone would listen to rap anyway. Then right before high school a new family moved to our church. They had a son, an only child, who was SO into music it was unbelievable. A little scary even. But he knew who DC Talk was. Our youth group went to see the band, along with some crazy Australian band called Newsboys. Their dancing made me think that someone should call an ambulance. But DC Talk put on an amazing show. The new guy, on the other hand, was crazy like the Australians. When us girls were all chatting later, his girlfriend asked me if he always acted this way. How was I to know? He was the New Guy.
Fast forward several years past the Petra/Whiteheart/and even more Micheal W.Smith years, and I was headed to see DC Talk again at a Billy Graham crusade in Toronto. A couple of friends and I were planning on meeting up with the New Guy (except he wasn’t so new anymore), and his girlfriend (she was new). The crowds were unbelievable and we never did catch up with them. But it didn’t matter because we got to hear a new song by DC Talk, one that broke all of the rules and blew our minds.
You see, Christian music hasn’t always been like it is now. Like the right to vote or gender equality, for a long time it had fallen under people’s preconceived and totally un-Biblical ideas of what “Christian music” should be. Songwriting was very limited, even to the point where the tempo had to be a specific one, or the song would risk being deemed “a bad influence”. And as students we did want to honour God with what we were listening to, but we also wanted some good music that we could really get into.
Back at the performance, we were loving the show. But when the opening strains of that song started, our mouths gaped, our eyes bugged out and our minds were blown. And before we knew it, we were all on our feet, screaming our hearts out. We had just been introduced to Jesus Freak, a song that ushered in a new way of thinking, opened doors for younger bands, and paved the way for a new generation. Because if they could proclaim the name of Jesus in a song like that? What’s to stop the rest of us? We suddenly had a rallying cry, a culture and a community, and it was game-changing.
After that, other bands began to follow their lead, taking risks and trying things they hadn’t before. Skillet, Thousand Foot Crutch, Third Day, Audio Adrenaline and others all began to experiment and try things we had never heard from Christian artists before.
But life goes on, and soon New Guy and I were married (the girlfriends weren’t that into music, I guess), and babies came. The first baby experienced his first mosh pit in utero, although the experience was kept short. Two babies later, sleepless and barely functioning, I lived for my “break night” — an evening once a week when Daddy would watch the little ones for a couple of hours while I had a Mommy’s Time Out. I could have been shopping or getting my hair done or reading fluffy fiction, but most often I would decompress by driving around with the tunes cranked. This time it was Underdog, by Audio Adrenaline. The entire album spoke to me in the season I now found myself in, and those songs got me through many days. There was also Relient K, Plumb and Skillet.
After the third baby came along, I discovered Plumb’s latest, Blink. One song, In My Arms, defined a space of about two or three years for me, and was the motivation and encouragement I needed to trust God with all of the children in my life.
And after that, a bible study in Romans and the song Imposter marked my journey through the understanding of what my identity in Christ really is.
And now, well, now I find myself looking for the type of music that will speak to my kids. The kind that they can listen to without hearing things they shouldn’t, the kind that will propel them forward in their faith, in the search for meaning, and in their own identity.
But I’m still not a musical person. And no, I will not play the flute for you.