“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” ~ Psalm 96:1
In 2012, if someone had said I’d one day be a musician, I probably would’ve politely turned the conversation around. It wasn’t that I was against the idea. (Who hasn’t dreamed of being a big rock star?) Or that I hated music. At the time, it just didn’t seem like a possibility. Why?
Because I had my life planned out:
- I’d be a big-time Hollywood director
- As well as happily married
- Probably with kids
- And, oh yeah, I’ll get around to the God stuff, eventually.
But life has a way of flipping your best laid plans upside-down.
During the spring and summer of 2012, I:
- Got my heart broken
- Got to be a paid actor on a TV series
- And realized, after enduring the tirades of an angry director, that I no longer wanted to work in such a stressful, cutthroat environment.
In short, I believed that I was meant for more. Around the time that filming for the TV show ended, I found myself at a huge two-day-long music festival called Uprise in Shippensburg, PA. And while I was down in the energetic crowd jamming, moshing, hopping, and singing along with some of the biggest names in Christian music, a thought occured to me: Could I get up onstage and do what they do? While at that moment it was just a thought, little did I know a seed had been planted in my heart.
Long story short, as summer rolled into fall, I had the opportunity to play a guitar for the first time in my life. And I fell in love with it! Before long, I taught myself all the basic strumming patterns and chord shapes. But the fire inside couldn’t be stopped and I started writing my own faith-based songs. Then one by one, opportunities started knocking: playing at church functions, leading worship at Mass, singing with the choir, etc.
Over the years, I’ve heard my share of people complaining about how some churches are starting to incorporate “those pesky electric guitars and loud drums.” Many of them seem to fear that the solemnity of Mass will become muted by an eye-popping, ear-splitting display of lights and garbled noise. While there is some basis to their concerns, I would prefer having modern worship music performed at Mass.
Because maybe the reason that so many young people are walking away from the Church is because they simply don’t feel connected to it. Maybe they don’t feel wanted. Maybe the Mass just isn’t relevant to them. Below, I’m going to list the lyrics to several mainstream songs that young people listen to (myself included).
“Running around chasing hearts,
chasing bodies to fix the parts.
I don’t know how I reached this place,
so far from heaven, so far from grace.”
~ Drowning Shadows by Sam Smith
“I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive”
~ Counting Stars by OneRepublic
“Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here”
~ Dare You To Move by Switchfoot
Notice anything in common? All three songs, while in completely different genres of music, speak about an inner struggle to find “something good” either within or outside themselves. The various musicians express the conflicting emotions, thoughts, and feelings that go on inside the minds and hearts of young people. To a lot of people (young, old, and in between) music speaks to them in ways that nothing else can.
And if Bruce Springsteen is correct, that “Everybody’s got a hungry heart,” nowhere is it more evident than in church. Because looking out at the congregation, that’s what I see in the eyes of many people. While there are a million and one reasons for someone being at Mass, I’d be willing to bet that many are there because they want to draw closer to God. They want to be overwhelmed by His awesome power and majesty. To receive Him in the Eucharist (a “Gift of Finest Wheat”). And to leave feeling nearer to Him. To go out and bring His Good News to a world that sorely needs it.
Now, maybe Nashville will never come knocking. Maybe I’ll never be as good as Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. And maybe I’ll never tour with U2. But that’s alright with me. Fame and fortune are not what I’m living for. Whenever I play before an audience, whether there’s just a few or an enormous crowd, I know that I’m providing them with something greater. A chance to lift our voices and our spirits up to God, hoping that He’ll meet us where we are.