I miss the music. Not the hymns, the contemporary Christmas music that could overpower you and lift your soul to the heavens. The music that could surround you, wrap you in its arms, and give you an almost transcendent experience. I think understanding how I came to this music is important in understanding how it fed my soul, and in understanding why I miss it.
Growing up, my parents never forbade us from listening to contemporary Christmas music. They never limited us to hymns or told us that any music with a rock beat was of the devil. The thing is, you really don’t have to forbid something explicitly for children to pick up on what is seen as more righteous and what is looked on askance. I some how picked up on the reality that if I only listened to hymns, and condemned contemporary Christmas music, I was seen as more devout, more godly, more praiseworthy.
The thing is, I never actually liked hymns. I just said I did, and tried my best to convince myself that I did, because I felt that I was supposed to like them. I’m realizing as time goes on that I did this with A LOT of things, actually. I mean, I convinced myself that I liked kids even when they really just annoyed me. I convinced myself that I wanted a huge family even though, looking back, I don’t think I actually did. I convinced myself that all I wanted to be was a homemaker, and on and on, all because I felt I was supposed to.
Sorting through all of this is annoying. When you feel like you’re supposed to like something, when liking it gets you praised and set up as a model for all to see, when you fully convince yourself you like it, it’s hard to figure out in retrospect if you really like it or not. Do I actually like sewing and needlework? I thought I did but I’m honestly no longer sure. Do I really like cooking and baking? The jury is still out on that one too, though I’m leaning toward yes. It’s annoying to realize that every like and dislike I formed growing up was so incredibly shaped by the patriarchal subculture in which I was raised that I have to reevaluate it to see whether it is real or merely induced. I mean, I realize that everyone’s likes and dislikes are shaped by their surroundings, but I feel like my situation was more extreme than normal.
But I’m getting off topic. The point is I was a strict hymns-only girl even though I was really only forcing myself to like them, and I didn’t really succeed even in that. Hymns were…monotonous. Boring. Etc.
College was a life changing experience for me. I left for college with a very fundamentalist mindset. I had long hair, didn’t wear makeup, and had a wardrobe of homemade dresses. Again, none of this was because I was required to strictly speaking – I could have worn pants and makeup and cut my hair if I had wanted to – but it all added to my image as devout and it garnered me praise and it set me apart as somehow more pure. Or at least, that’s how I perceived it. College, however, was very different from the subculture in which I had grown up.
The thing about college was that even though it was a secular college I was still surrounded by people who were very religious. I mean, the largest student group on campus by far was Campus Crusade for Christ. But, the whole Christian patriarchy sheltered homeschool thing? Not so much. I stuck out and I knew it. I came across as judgmental and a prude…because, well, I was. And I didn’t like that about me.
The girls around me had such strong faith, such devoted hearts, even as they wore pants and makeup and short hair and listened to contemporary Christian music. They weren’t worldly and empty or judgmental and prudish. And so, with their help, I started casting off my fundamentalist outlook bit by bit. I cut my hair, I threw out my dresses, and I tried a little makeup. I started being involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, throwing aside my hymn-only anti-contemporary-Christian-music position. Instead, I let go, I opened myself to new experiences, and I asked God to show me his fullness and smooth my rough edges.
There is something about standing in a campus auditorium with several hundred college students singing passionately and with feeling to the background of loud, moving, soulful music. I would close my eyes and just lose myself. Even as I started encountering problems with my parents, I always found solace there. It was in this music that I felt I could touch God, that I felt my soul leave my body and ascend to the heavens. It was there that I knew I was on the right path, and that everything would work out in the end. It was there, in song, that I could be vulnerable, tears running down my cheeks, without fear of rejection.
Today, I still recognize the power of music, a power that transcends cultures and is something of a human universal. Music is somehow releases something in the human psyche. And, the truth is, I miss it. I no longer listen to the contemporary Christian music that once gave me such powerful feeling because without the theology behind it it is empty except in memory. But, having spent most of my life avoiding even contemporary Christian music, I am ignorant of the secular music field and am therefore left with nothing. There is a music void in my life that I fill only by singing snippets of Christian songs forever etched in my memory to my daughter while replacing “Jesus,” “God,” and “Lord” with “Sally.”
Does anyone have any suggestions? It might be a good idea to build my music repertoire with music I can still find inspiring and moving.