When Life Gives You Deconstruction: Music

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I’ve been sitting on this for a while because I’ve been doing my own processing and healing. While in the middle of writing this blog, there were several public outcries from the evangelical community denouncing the process of deconstruction. Trusted leaders, pastors, and musicians have called deconstruction evil, witchcraft, and ungodly. I’m in a place where I can often ignore or shrug off these ridiculous claims, but sometimes it hits a nerve.

I am a lover of music. I love all different kinds of music. Not only do I love music, I am also a musician. Music is very powerful and can evoke powerful emotions. It can convey what is not being said and bring people to a special place.

While in the church, worship time was my favorite. I was often on stage, singing with the worship team. This appealed to me for several reasons. For one, I love to sing. I love to take a song and make it a little bit mine. Secondly, I love being on stage. As scary as it can be, I like having eyes on me. I like performing. I like being heard. I really feel at home on the stage. When people would come up to me after church and compliment me on my voice, it filled my cup.

In the church, however, you are reminded quite regularly that you are there to serve and it isn’t about you or whatever need of yours it is fulfilling. While I believe servant leadership is a beautiful thing, the struggle between joy and sense of duty that came with leading worship eventually led to guilt and shame around enjoying what you were doing. It was made to feel selfish. I felt this and I saw it all around me. It made me sad that people couldn’t just enjoy the high of performing without being pulled down by the guilt of being self-indulgent in your talent and hobby. This was seen as holy.

There are many exvangelicals who will talk about the manipulation tactics used during worship services – evoking strong emotions by song choice, “spontaneous” worship time, talking over a musical intro/outro, long build ups in songs, dimmed lights or concert lighting. These are all things that happen during worship. These are not points I feel too strongly about, personally, but I believe that anyone who feels they were misled or manipulated by these tactics have valid opinions. Not everyone carries the same opinions or experiences from the church and I would never dismiss the harm done by the use of these tactics.

I’m also an avid listener of music. It’s rare that you walk into my home without some kind of music playing – especially if I’m alone. I admire talented musicians and lyricists. I sing loudly to the music I love. I dance around my house while cooking or cleaning.

Some weeks ago, my partner asked if I had heard the newest Skillet album. He knows that I really like Skillet’s music, so this is a totally normal question, but I wasn’t prepared for how triggering it would be. At the time, I was a bit hesitant to listen to anything remotely close to Christian music because so many of my beliefs have evolved recently. I’m still working through this. I want to be cognizant of the musicians I support because I don’t want to perpetuate the abuse I’ve experienced.

While writing this blog, a very problematic video came out where John Cooper, the lead singer of Skillet, declared a “war on deconstruction.” This isn’t entirely surprising, but still hurtful. As a fan, I realized that their music is no longer safe, uplifting, or encouraging for me. He is spreading a dangerous and unloving message at his concerts while his legions of fans cheer him on. The irony here is that he is fiercely defending an institution that does not fully accept him for who he is with all his rock ‘n roll and tattoos. The only reason he is welcomed by any part of the evangelical community is because of deconstruction. Deconstruction paved a way for him to be a successful musician on the edge of evangelicalism and secular popularity. Since then, I’ve done some research and realized that John Cooper has a history of spreading misinformation and dangerous ideologies. Disappointing, to say the least.

Navigating the obstacle course of the music I once loved can be an exhausting feat. There are still musicians who I adore and will sometimes listen to. For now, though, I stick with my alternative, rock, pop, new grass, and hip-hop of the secular variety. It’s more open, loving, and godly than I was taught to believe.

Floor of Failure

*This is a repost from a blog I had in 2012. It feels as real today as it did then.

Sometimes I look in the mirror

and you rear your ugly head

I try to pretend you aren’t there

that you don’t exist

Then I trip and fall flat on my face

You are ever-so present

and all I want to do is cry

give up and lie

on the floor of failure

Tonight I’m facing this

monster that paralyzes me

with fear with invisible power

I can’t put my finger on it

The intangible terror is

dancing with you in

my head

My mouth is dry and my

words are gone

What you don’t know, though

is that I just took my

first step

to no longer being under

your thumb.

How to Honor Your Mental Health

How to Honor Your Mental Health

With World Mental Health Day being this week, I’d like to share a story.

Exactly 4 years ago, on October 10th, I missed a cousin’s beautiful wedding to protect my mental health. Let me explain.

Four years ago, I was battling through my very painful divorce. During this specific time, in the 5 months between filing for divorce and our final court date, we had just tried to reconcile and it failed miserably. I was in a world of hurt – brokenhearted, angry, and just sad.

My little cousin was getting married and it was going to be a beautiful day of family, friends, and nuptials. I was looking forward to it and dreading it all at the same time. After talking to my mom, sisters, and best friend, we all came to the conclusion that I probably should not go to this wedding. As sad as I was to miss the wedding, it was also a huge relief.

Had I gone, I probably would have gotten drunk and made some poor life choices. I was pretty good at that during this time. Not like fall-onto-the-stage-and-give-a-slurred-and-sappy-speech-drunk. More like overshare-personal-details-of-my-life-and-maybe-makeout-with-a-random-family-friend-drunk. Either way, not pretty.

During that time, my mental health was fragile. My heart was broken and I made plenty of bad decisions. But thankfully I had a tribe who was looking out for me and gave me permission to sit this one out. In fact, Facebook reminded me of what I did end up doing that weekend. I went up north with my best friend to her cottage to get away, drink a little wine, and break bread with my person and her family.

Honoring my mental health
The view from my best friend’s cottage.

But that’s not the end of this story. Fast forward 4 years and I am happily divorced, in a loving relationship, my career is thriving, I own 2 businesses, and I’m pursuing things I love. My mental health is in a much better place. I no longer have nagging thoughts of self-harm, which is something I have a history with. I don’t immediately reach for alcohol to numb my feelings. And I truly have respect for myself and my body.

It also hasn’t all been unicorns and rainbows. I’ve had struggles just like anyone else. I made sure to take time after my divorce to heal. Healing has to be intentional – not rushed. Intentional. I chose to heal. I chose to face my pain, bad choices, and insecurities. There’s still healing that needs to occur, but I’m always working on that. If you choose to heal as you go, then it is so much less overwhelming.

Healing looks like therapy, reading, journaling, crying, laughing, self-care, exercise, self-awareness, prayer, acceptance, connection, forgiveness, and love. All of these lend to your healing. Healing takes work, but it is so worth it. You are so worth it. And your mental health will thank you.

Now I look back and my cousin has beautiful memories of her special day. No one even remembers that I wasn’t there or why. And no one especially remembers how I made a fool of myself after getting too drunk, because it didn’t happen.

Life goes on and gets better – mine did. Yours will too.