WARNING: This post contains full frontal Christianity. It’s also about songwriting. So if you either don’t like Christianity or don’t like it mixed with your songwriting… go ahead and stop reading, and I’ll see you back here for Wordplay Thursday. Now, for the rest of you…
I’ve always had a little bit of an old school (as in Old Testament) view of idols, I guess. Not the “golden calf” version, really, but the “anything you put ahead of God in your life” version. I took it mainly as: don’t let songwriting crowd out my Bible study or prayer time (guilty), don’t write songs for financial benefit or career advancement that go against my spiritual beliefs (guilty), etc.
But when I go deeper, it gets tricky. After all, I would spend hours on a song, but I don’t spend hours in prayer or Bible study. When I had a publishing deal and wrote full-time, I definitely spent more time on my “job” than I did focused on God (though, at times they were one in the same). But we have to make a living, right? So that’s not automatically making your work (whatever it is) an idol. It’s something deeper.
If you read last week’s post, “Songwriter, Which Voice Will You Listen To?” you know I’m going through a time of listening. I’ve been trying to get some sort of direction from God, some next step for my career/work/music. But, as He’s done with me in the past, He’s gonna work on my heart BEFORE He works on my career. Almost as if making me like Christ is more important than making me like Don Schlitz or Tom Douglas or something. Go figure.
Here’s what I’ve been hearing.
I’ve made an idol of self. And songwriting and success is a part of that idolatry. I’ve focused more on that than I have on Him. Not only that, but I’ve found more JOY in music and success than I have in Christ. And that’s idolatry, too. Maybe you’ve seen me post this image before:
I’ve really felt that way. I often feel like I’m holding my breath during my day job. When I finally get to write is when I’ve felt most like myself. (Well, that and when I play with my kids. But thank the Lord I get to see them every day so there isn’t that kind of tension built up like it is in the stretches between cowrites.)
But why doesn’t going to church feel like coming up for air? Why doesn’t my (mostly daily) Bible study feel like coming up for air? I was MADE to be in relationship with God, to glorify Him. I was CREATED to find my ultimate joy in Him. Not in anything else.
There’s nothing wrong with songwriting. Nothing wrong with having a passion for it and enjoying it. But it should not bring me more joy that my relationship with Christ. Maybe it’s because writing a song is more tangible? My cowriter and I are sitting across the coffee table from each other. We hear the song come to life. We laugh. We tell stories. And we might even get a worktape at the end of it!
How do I do that with God? How do I have that kind of relationship or experience with Him? How does my private prayer time become the highlight of my days and weeks?
Honestly, I don’t know.
But I know it’s not only possible, it’s required. I’ll never really find joy, peace, or contentment until He is my highest joy and focus. I’m not saying that God will remove songwriting from my life. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that! But if it consistently pulls me away from Him, it NEEDS to be removed.
Actually, I DO know how to make God the greatest joy of my life. I have to trust the Holy Spirit to work in my heart and make that change in me. I certainly can’t do it myself. Even if I could, who gets the credit for that? I would. And that would be more “self” doing the work and getting glory. God has to produce this change in me, so He gets all the credit and glory. I just have to trust Him to make that change. To be open to and submit to His work in my heart. Even being able to submit to His work in my heart will take an act of His grace.
It’s ALL from Him, not from me.
So, there you go. I need to find my ultimate joy in the Lord. For now, that’s my “next step.” Thanks for hanging in there with me, guys. I hope, that in some way, sharing this part of my songwriting and spiritual journey will help you on yours.
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.