I’ve always been into music, especially rap/hip-hop. I remember, as a six year old growing up in San Bernardino, Cali, learning the majority of the song Colors by Ice-T. Obviously it wasn’t the best song for a first grader to be reciting, but the world of hip-hop took me by storm at an early age. As a teenager, I was on Wu-Tang, Lost Boyz, Nas and early Outkast, before they became more commercialized. Every penny I could find went to buying CDs and I spent a small fortune stocking my CD organizers…and I stress the plural. Night and day you could find me with my pre-Beats by Dre-like headphones on, learning every line of every track. Music was undoubtedly my life.
In September of 1996, I became a Christian and at some point soon after, I knew I could no longer identify with my favorite artists. So, I tossed all my music…well over 100 CDs. And there I was music-less. You would think I’d be in complete shock without my music, but I knew in my heart that I was going to be okay. Besides, I knew Church folk had music…and surely I could find SOMETHING I liked. I remember visiting a few Christian bookstores trying to rebuild my music selection and I found nothing. Man! I felt like I had come to a conclusion right then that being a Christian meant replacing my Snoop Dog (before he was a lion, of course) with Sandy Patty (nothing against her music, it just wasn’t my style). Then, as I was going to accept that seemingly foreign fate, a bookstore employee put me on to the Cross Movement’s Heaven’s Mentality (I still have my original copy). I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as Christian hip-hop! And, it was kinda nice.
Fast forward to now. I’ve been listening to Christian music for seventeen years. I cannot tell you the number of things I’ve learned through music about scripture and life in general. It’s been a huge positive influence in my life and certain tracks bring amazing memories to the forefront of my mind. And even though a few years have passed, you can still catch me learning every line on every track, all the time. When I drive, when I shave, when I bath my kids and when I work out, there is music to be heard somewhere.
Two and a half weeks ago, that all changed for me. I came to a realization that while Christian music carries colossal benefits of education, encouragement and enjoyment, it has also become a distraction to me. There have been times where I feel God leading me to pray about something and I would respond in my heart, “After this song, Lord!”
Then, that track ends and the beat drops on the next track. “God, I promise to pray after this one.” Next thing I know, I’ve completely forgotten to pray. But, at least I’ve listened to a song I’ve heard 542 times before. That’s worth something, right? No. I was disobedient. So God plainly spelled it out for me, “Fast from music”. And, since I honestly only listen to Christian music, it became “Fast from [Christian] music”. There are three things that I’ve seen through this fast from Christian music that have really hit home:
Music is a powerful tool that I can use to either devote or distract myself.
Let me come clean…the past few weeks haven’t totally been without music. There have been a few songs that I’ve listened to here and there. Each of those few select songs was a part of my prayer/praise/worship time and they were not distractions, but rather devotions. Literally all of the music I played before as a sense of comfort has been cut and now the silence reminds me: Pray. Seek. Think. And I have been. I’ve been praying about people and things I don’t normally pray for. And I’ve felt so much peace in my heart because of that open line of communication with God. I feel closer to Him. Although we as a people likely consider Christian music to be “devotional” by nature, when you allow it to substitute your personal time with God as I have, then it is a distraction and it needs to be addressed. Do you feel distracted or devoted when you’re listening to music?
My heart will still beat without music in my life.
When I got rid of my secular music, to say it was difficult was an understatement. I was reluctant because music has always been my comfort. It’s been my release and to be real with you, at various times it’s been my God. But the paradox was crazy – I hated to see my music go, but I knew I would be okay without it. I had a peace that seemingly said, “Ben, I got you in this. Trust in Me.” I did and I’m still here. Now, I find myself at the same conclusion. I’ve realized that even if I never hear another beat or another bar, that doesn’t affect my relationship with God and it won’t physically kill me. My relationship is affected when I’m distracted or when I make Him the runner-up to the things I want. This fast has given me clarity to see if it’s really God Over Everything or if it’s God Under Comfort. I’m not sure how long this fast will last, but I know I’ll be alright regardless. Would you be able to surrender your comforts if you were shown they distracted you?
Music wasn’t the problem. It was my heart.
It’s not just music that I let distract me. It’s my cell phone, my computer, my “To Do List.” I allowed those things to keep me occupied before anything else for no other reason than my comfort. In fact, I refuse to sit here and pretend that those things are distraction because they are inherently bad. None of them are. My procrastination existed because I would rather selfishly listen to my favorite Christian artist instead of praying. I can’t live under a mindset that says God approves of me listening to Christian music as a replacement to praying or getting into His world, right? That’s like me telling my wife that I’m never actually going to spend time with her, but it’s cool because I’m listening to a lot of love songs. I’m pretty sure she would throat punch me if I ever told her that and I would totally deserve it. Do you find yourself using “good things” instead of doing the “God things” you’ve been called to do?
Simply put: God is not into us having a one-way relationship with Him. He wants our devotion and attention. His love for us is so great that He wants to be in our life and He wants us to be in His. Pray God will give you wisdom in knowing what your distractions are and how to limit or eliminate them. Pray for me too as I press on with the fast, that God would purify my heart and help me not to get distracted.
What are some of the things you’ve learned when you’ve fasted? Let us know on Twitter @HolyCulture