Monday, June 2, 2014

Moments in the Press Room

I had a moment last night.

I’d spent a couple hours standing on a red carpet for a major Christian music industry event, toting a camera, firing questions at some of my heroes. Now I was sitting in a cold, dark, almost eerily quiet press room backstage at one of the most famous venues in the country, alternately watching the feed of the night’s event and photographing nominees and presenters as they took turns on our press stage. Much of the night had already passed, and I’d made a thousand memories I knew would stay with me for a lifetime.

An unassuming artist took the press room stage, her dark curls comfortably, beautifully disarrayed, wearing boots with her dress in an act of irony similar to my own perpetual converse-with-formal-wear rebellion. I’d met her earlier that night on the red carpet, shook hands, exchanged names, and managed all of the above without anything out of the ordinary occurring. But as she started answering questions, I found myself grateful for a camera to press against my face to hide the reality that I was rapidly blinking back tears.

She was answering a question about the stories her songs tell-- stories much darker than most others in her industry, stories most are afraid to tell. She talked about how she was drawn to the dark because unapologetically admitting to it enabled hope to be a more rich reality, the contrast driving truth deeper home. And as she talked about this, suddenly I wasn’t hardcore professional Mary with my stack of all access laminates in a drawer at home and the confidence to stand on the fringes of a stage taking pictures in front of thousands of people. I was 15 year old Mary, sitting in a dark room with one of this artist’s songs on repeat on my cheap MP3 player, rocking back and forth and trying to dive so deep into the music that maybe-- just maybe-- for two seconds the pain would stop.

I still get moments like this often. I’d had one earlier that night when in the midst of a totally professional conversation with Scott Stapp, he spoke his story and unknowingly echoed my own, and for a split second I remembered being a teenager hanging on every word of Creed’s “One Last Breath.” I had another one a few days earlier when Jon Foreman sang again the dare that’s chased me for the past seven years: move. I dare you. And I had it a few months ago when I stood sidestage during a Skillet performance and cried yet again through the song that started this entire wild music ride for me.

And these moments aren’t instances of self-pity or sorrow for the past and the person I was. They’re moments simply where the brilliance of truth stabs at my chest with sudden piercing clarity, where I remember who I am, where I came from, and why I’m doing what I do.

My involvement with the music scene has been kind of like the most drama-filled highschool dating episode imaginable, but as I’m settling into a new role and a time where (ostensibly) there is a calm in the emotional storm, one of the things I swear to myself is that I won’t forget what started it all or what’s kept me here even when I felt frustrated or like I’d defined the call on my life entirely wrong.

Because I’m not on the red carpets or stages or press rooms or mics for myself or for anyone’s approval. I’m there because music has so often been the only thing that brought me outside of myself, that admitted to where I was while whispering that maybe-- just maybe-- there was something better to come. And I’m there because I would wear myself out on a million weekends like this last one to help connect other people to that same experience.

I am of the philosophy that music isn’t always supposed to throw answers at you, but it sure helps an awful lot with wrestling through the questions, with keeping your heart beating long enough so you can reach those answers.

So no matter where I go in this field, I hope I never stop having those tear-stained moments where I’m 15 again. I hope I never stop singing the songs that meet me in my questions, in my journey towards truth-- towards Christ. And I hope I never, ever forget that I’m doing this because of the millions of other people whose lives would change if they had those moments too.

Soli Deo gloria.

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