For awhile, I used to only listen to worship music on Sundays.
Sundays I could swallow it. The rest of the week, I found it depressing.
I know, it sounds very unchristian of me.
I grew up a Pentecostal Pastor’s kid (aka PK’s.) When you’re a PK, you go to church (I know, it’s a shocker.) And when you’re a PK at a Pentecostal church, you go to church a lot.
Music has always been my respite. So as a kid who grew up in the church and found Jesus to be my greatest love, it was inevitable worship would play a big role in my life.
Though being actively involved in the church was somewhat required of me from a young age, I didn’t always love going. (At times, I may have even loathed it.) Worship was my getaway, per se. However I was going to be involved at church, would involve music. I loved to sing and I loved to sing to God. But at some point, listening to it began to feel bleak. It was as if the sound would transport me to 12 years of age, during late night services, when I would sit in the back row and just wait for people to be done spontaneously singing and praying, so my parents could take me home and I could just watch a movie. (Introvert child that I was. Or am.)
Or maybe it was because worship songs were practically the soundtrack of my childhood. Whenever a new one hit the charts, my family would play it to death and kill it. (My family tends to kill anything we like: worship songs, tacos, Jason Bateman movies etc.)
Granted I was partly to blame for this stuck-on-repeat disease. I lived for lengthy worship sets at youth group, camps and conferences. I even selected a certain Christian University to attend on the other side of the Nation, mainly for its solid grasp of worship and near daily engagement in it. Yet somewhere along the way, it was rarely on my playlist. It almost saddened me. It was often the last thing I wanted to listen to.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t committed to following Christ. But at different periods of life, I seemed to avoid the most evocative expression of communicating with God. When worship music would come on the radio I would immediately turn the station, almost out of discomfort. Twinged with the guilt of some lack of spirituality, I would write off my disinterest as finding it too solemn or serious for my current mood. I just preferred something less heavy, less intimate.
Finally I came to a point where I was ready to face this question: Why don’t I care to listen to worship throughout the week? Why does it make me feel depressed?
I realized I may have purposely distanced myself from worship, when I probably needed it the most. I was waiting for answers that had yet to come and was wrestling with other answers I didn’t want to face. Life wasn’t panning out like I had hoped. (I’m such a rare case, I know.) And instead of continuing to declare God’s truth over my life, it was easier for me to pull away from worship. It was almost more comfortable to not to engage in it. When you’re constantly focused on all that is wrong with life, worship is about the last thing you are inclined to do.
I had forgotten worship’s ability to keep my spiritual reality more visceral than my current reality. As anxiety continued to cloud my thoughts, I was almost hoping to find some logical solution rather than combat it with song. But no matter how much I would journal, I couldn’t settle my mind. No matter what I read, I couldn’t clear my head. No matter how much yoga I did, I couldn't calm my soul. By not worshiping in my daily life, my mind was so preoccupied with discontentment and anxiety that I had lost a tight grasp on the truth. It wasn’t as tangible to me. But leave it to one single song to wreck me and open up my eyes. When I finally allowed my mind and days to be flooded again with songs of worship, songs of truth that could bolster my faith, I wondered why I had ever distanced myself from its power to change my thoughts, even my reality. I know that’s not the most logical explanation, but that’s what is the most freeing about experiencing God’s love through song - it isn’t logical.
It seems clear God intended a strong source of communication with us to be set to song. Music’s repetitive nature has the ability to ingrain truths in us. Catchy songs, like a melodic meditation, actually aids us in receiving information. In many therapy sessions, music is used to help patients with autism or dementia regain cognitive focus, for those who would otherwise have little access to strong emotional states. In recent years MIT researchers have even identified neural pathways in our brain that react almost exclusively to the sound of music. It’s as if part of our brain, not only our soul, was designed to receive and know truth solely through song.
Maybe it’s my love (rather psychotic-sentimental connection) to music that has allowed this perplexing relationship with worship. Yet there is no denying its unsurpassed ability to increase our faith. At least for me, few things in life can evoke this other than worshiping God in song.
Some songs, I find I just need to marinate in. That, or I just like to kill it.
What can I say? Some family traits die hard.