Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Favorite Disease

A couple years back, I picked up a record titled The Flame in All of Us by Thousand Foot Krutch. I listened to it a lot before I ever read through the liner notes (and yes, I do read the liner notes of pretty much every album I buy). I found an extremely interesting paragraph written before the lyrics of one of the songs. Here is a part of what Trevor had written:

The idea of having a ‘favorite disease’ is obviously a little contradictory... A person’s passion and the thing that drives them can be given many names. I like to refer to it as a God given passion, and a blessing, and not something I have achieved, or obtained. If you’re passionate about something, it drives you, and sometimes even consumes you. If something consumes you, than other things in life, even if only for a brief period of time, take a back seat to that thing. In my case, music is one of the things I’m passionate about, and at times it has consumed me. In those times I remember feeling like the thing I loved so much, and have always used as a tool to heal, confide in, and share my life with, was actually killing me. It’s a very confusing feeling to have when you’ve spent your whole life devoted to a gift.

I can’t predict how meaningful this post will be to anyone. This is more my confused ramblings than anything else, but I felt like I needed a platform for it aside from the many thousands of words that have been written in my journal. You’re probably all tired of reading my thoughts on music by now, but it's so integral to me that it's a given that it would have a strong presence here.

The first time I read Trevor’s words in the liner notes, they didn’t make sense to me. But about two months ago I remembered them, dug through my piles of CDs, pulled out the liner notes and re-read them. And it was like a beautiful punch in the chest, that shaky and somehow peaceful moment of realizing “someone else gets it.”

A week ago I went to see The Rocket Summer (a one-man band created by Bryce Avary). It was a very different show than what I usually attend-- it was mostly acoustic, and it was a special tour where Bryce was purposefully booking small venues and then playing a bunch of his old songs for his fans. We were packed into a tiny club on a cool late November night, and we were all singing along so loud that at moments Bryce was drowned out. He was recording for a live album. I wonder if they’ll be able to use any of the audio-- it will be all us.

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There is something about those moments. Sort of like when Bryce leans back and sings out “And when You heal my broken wings, You heal my everything. You tell me to live.” It’s something that feels a lot like hope, though I’m still figuring out why.

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Recently part of one of my calluses chipped off. I started playing guitar, and due to the lack of protection, my finger burned. I used to get lots of blisters and be nearly bleeding by the end of my long guitar sessions, but now usually I never even feel the strings anymore. Now I had a raised blister again, and the familiar burning was back. I played for nearly an hour anyway.

And I had a thought as I did so. I think sometimes we need to lose the calluses. I have started to pray that my fingertips will never get so callused that they cease to burn when they brush against music. And that’s because music is beautiful, and it is a gift, and when God uses something to show me more of who He is, I should never, ever take that for granted.

The past few weeks I’ve been losing myself again. I have looked at my life and seen that perhaps every situation I am involved in would be better if I were not there. I have seen how greatly I have failed, and I have faced the consequences of some incredibly foolish decisions I made in the past year. And in the midst of this, I find myself crawling back again and again and curling up inside the melodies. I come alive when I hear You singing...

I have no idea why music has taken such strong roots in my life. I don’t know what God will do with it, because my life is so completely directionless right now. And there have been times when I have been completely consumed by it, which is not healthy either. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all wrong, and if I am a fool for even pretending I could share in the beauty I see in the songs. But then I remember nights like last Saturday, singing and hoping with a few hundred other beating hearts, and I realize that no matter where I go from here or how many times I do things wrong, there is still the blessing and the gift. Sometimes I need to focus more on the fact that grace is real, rather than the reality of how little I deserve it.

In the past few months I have heard some incredible songs sung in a variety of places. I have been in well-lit churches with families and kids singing along. I have been in dirty clubs surrounded by drunk 20-somethings trying to make sense of life. I have been in massive auditoriums working with huge crews to make everything fall together. I have stood on blurry street corners in middle of the night after shows, still drowning in the wonder of songs.

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One of the shows I haven’t talked about here is the Anberlin show, which was on September 29. My sister and I stood in one of the most famous venues in Dallas to hear some of our very favorite songs live for the first time. There were a few drunk girls on one side of us, some cynical teenagers behind us, some crowd surfers who got kicked out, and some guys on the balcony who got into a fist fight half way through. That probably doesn’t sound like much fun to most of you, if I had to guess. But it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen-- not because of the audience. Not because of the broken glass and spilled beer that we walked over to get out. Not because of the noise. It was because as I listened to Stephen’s piercingly beautiful vocals drift over and under and around us, I saw something amazing... I saw God as being bigger than I’d ever imagined. He was there, in the mess, in the ugliness. He was singing and reaching and moving.

Music is and always will be my favorite disease. These blisters on my finger tips remind me of the pain that passion so often requires and the wonder that makes it worthwhile. Working out a relationship with something so powerful, something that has become such a huge part of my life, is never easy... but it is a gift. And I am so, so grateful for these things that move us and make us hope. It is not a bad thing to cling to the things that make us come alive.

"Still we have our common ground, which can never be annulled: to sing of the One who made us both, for He is wonderful. He is wonderful..."
- Dear Music, Showbread

- Elraen -


miruialiel.eternalprincess said...

Very nice post. =) I didn't know you listened to Showbread. We must discuss this. =D


Selena said...

I love your post, I think your a very good writer, and you get your point across. But I am a huge fan of the song "Favorite Disease" as well, and after reading and re-reading Mr. McNevan's little note, I think you missed the bigger picture.

You see, it's not about music, it's about how the things you really love, the things that God has gifted you in, sometimes, even those things get in the way of our relationship with Him. I play keyboards for my worship team at church, and every Sunday before I get up on stage I have to ask myself, "Am I doing this for me, or am I doing this for God?"

That right there is what I think this song means. Are we letting something else that should be "good" get in the way of God, and thus becoming "bad"? It's an issue of time and heart, and who (or what) is getting more of those things from us.

I just had to say this, I don't want to be annoying or anything. This is just the way I see it, and if we see things differently, well, the song's done it's job.