If anyone ever makes a movie about my life, I am already way ahead the game. I know exactly which tracks I would use and exactly when they would swell onto the screen, designed to elicit dewy tears from the audience. I know how to cue it. I know what volume I want it. I know which song for which moment.
After all, I am a child of the music generation. I have a musical biography.
Every major high point of my life had music. There was a song somewhere or a type of music that screamed, “This is your life.” The radio was always on, cassette tapes were the new rage, and I capitulated to the fact that I did, indeed, want my MTV.
I can’t actually play an instrument … well, except for those years spent learning scales on the piano and organ, which has resulted in a supreme distaste for the metronome. And I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Never wrote a song in my life. Which is highly irrelevant when you are part of the Soundtrack Generation. Knowing the how does not matter as much as the why of music. It runs through my veins and my memories like wine through water.
I listened to music until it became the backdrop of my life.
Music played a big role in my family’s eventual conversion through the record Bullfrogs and Butterflies from Maranatha. We had a 14-year-old babysitter that went away to church camp, got saved and came home to promptly evangelize her sphere of influence. The purchase of this record for my family was her effort to tell us of Jesus. While my sister and I were at school, my mom would sit and listen to the record over and over. It planted a seed in her heart that said, “You need Jesus. Your family needs Jesus.”
During the height of the televangelists and the advent of Christian choruses, we colored our childhood with such songs as “Victory in Jesus” and “The Horse and the Rider,” and the tambourine became an instrument for the masses.
My family was still into classic rock and true country, so even now I can sing along with almost every Bob Seger, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings song. And I am completely convinced that Willie Nelson is a poet for the ages. I scoff at these baby-faced city boys who try to wear the black hat.
Then when I was 15, Nirvana launched onto the scene. Even now, when I hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it’s hard for me not to see myself in thrift store, sporting bell-bottom jeans and black eyeliner. I want to rock out. I want to be 15 again. The angst, the anger, the frustration of being misunderstood—all of it resonated with me. I was coming into a time of rebellion, and it gave voice to my questions.
When I finally turned from my rebellion to Jesus, my mother and I would go for long drives together. We only had one Christian tape at the time, Gary Chapman’s Sweet Mercy. The rift between us after my rebellion was so great that we could hardly speak to one another. But we sang. We sang in the car together for hours. And that turned to talking. And talking turned to honesty. My mother and I were kindred spirits once more.
When my husband proposed to me, the old Bob Dylan song “To Make You Feel My Love” was playing. We had it played at our wedding. I heard that song today, and my eyes grew soft. I fell in love with my husband once again.
I’m sure you remember when Christian music was completely dominated by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. There wasn’t a Christian music CD without synthesizers. Even DC Talk was doing bubblegum rap back in those days. So when I heard Delirious? for the first time, this U2 fan thought she had died and gone to heaven.
Since then, the Christian music scene has really evolved. It’s night and day. It used to be that if you didn’t like Whiteheart and Carman, you were stuck with the shame of listening to “secular music.”
I am so thankful for the musical revolution in the Christian music industry. And it was no accident that it came for our generation. Think about it—the people that now write, perform and sing modern worship are predominantly our generation. They have their own individual soundtracks and were influenced by the same things we were. The music is turning the tide towards writing new soundtracks for those of us that love Jesus hard—and yet we’re still normal twentysomethings that live with a music obsession.
The first time I heard a Passion CD, I cried. And Marie Brennan’s song, “Desperate” called my soul forth. It was part of a turning point in my walk with God—the point when I realized that I needed God. Needed Him desperately.
The list goes on. I find that I can trace the periods of my life and the seasons by the music that I was listening to.
It’s almost a phenomenon for us. Music carries such a pull. It defines our moments, colors our memories, calls our hearts forth and brings us to our knees in repentance and to our feet for justice. It helps us get over the one that got away. And there is always “that song” that you fell in love to as you listened.
God has spoken to me in a diverse manner—often in a still, small voice, through His Word, through the counsel of saints and through music. Often God has used music to pull me into deeper relationship with Him, to cause me to question my life or my influences, or to pull me to my knees. God has used music to make me unsatisfied with my lack of passion. God has used music to make me realize that He has been so good to me.
God has spoken to me in a language that I understand.
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