Catholicism,  Entertainment,  Musings

Finding Jesus in the Everyday: Music Edition

I have a confession… I’ve never been a fan of praise and worship music. There, I said it.

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Even as a child, I often found myself rolling my eyes whenever my sister would blast the local Christian station on her portable radio. I thought it was cheesy, repetitive, and pandering. Compared to the emo bands and David Bowie standards playing from my own headphones, praise and worship felt like an absolute waste of time and airwaves. Then again, I wasn’t really interested in religion beyond asking God for favors when I needed something and yelling at Him when things did not go the way I wanted them to (an unfortunate habit I have yet to outgrow) until I was in my late teens, so to me, Toby Mac and Casting Crowns were just another part of a religion that I really didn’t have a use for.

Enter Catholicism. Since I do nothing by halves, I went from hating all Christian music to being an absolute hymn snob. I was drawn into the world of Gregorian Chant and ancient hymns that called to mind the beauty and majesty of a God Who was beyond all praising (see what I did there?). What were trite little ditties that repeated the same empty phrases over and over compared to the soul and substance of Panis Angelicus? Why would I want to listen to “On Eagles Wings” when I could be swept away by the glories of Adoro Te Devote? Why dine on musical McDonalds when you could have harmonic filet mignon? All or nothing, guys. That is my personality to a fault.

Over time, my heart softened a little, and I became an avid listener of Audrey Assad. Her music was heartfelt, original, and her voice was a balm to my soul. She may not be practicing her faith anymore, but her music has set a standard by which I measure other artists in the Christian genre. But (wo)man does not live on Audrey alone. Most days, my go-to stations range anywhere from Celtic rock to Neo-folk to early 2000’s alternative to reggae. There’s not much rhyme or reason to what I listen to on a given day other than I absolutely have to be in the mood for something specific, or else I will sit in silence rather than listen to something that does not pique my interest. Even with my seemingly random taste in music, I have found that some of my most profound meditations that have helped my spiritual life have been inspired by good old-fashioned secular music.

So to recap, I’m not a fan of praise and worship, and I like to meditate on Jesus while jamming out to The Dirty Heads.

Makes total sense, right?

Allow me to elaborate. One of the unexpected lessons I have learned from not listening to music geared specifically to the Christian worldview is that I have learned to notice little nods to the sacred within secular music. I’ll often be singing along to a song and find my mind wandering towards Our Lord and realize that Mumford & Sons had caused me to dwell on eternal truths in between aggressive banjo solos.

None of this is exactly new or unique. The point of any song worth its salt is to make you think. Even secular artists occasionally allude to God in their work. Humans were made to know, love, and serve God, so everything we create will have at least a twinge of the Creator in it. But training ourselves to find those little reminders of God in the most unexpected places adds its own kind of value to the spiritual life. When we listen to chant, or praise and worship, we know the end goal: to worship the Lord through the gift of music; to invoke the Divine through the medium of rhythm and poetry. When the non-religious entertainment we consume daily brings the Sacred to mind, we receive an opportunity to invite Jesus into the moments that otherwise seem separated from Him. It’s one thing to meditate on the deep, deep love of Jesus when you’re listening to music specifically created to remind you of the vastness of His love and mercy. It’s another thing completely to remember those same truths when you’re listening to a Phil Collins song and realize that Our Lord does indeed hold us tenderly in His heart (cheesy example, but you get the idea).

I don’t think we need to fill our adoration playlists full of Lady Gaga and 311; praise and worship and chant serve an extraordinary purpose in worship settings. There have been many times when the only prayer I could muster was listening to “I Shall Not Want” on repeat and allowing the words to be my own until the spiritual drought I was enduring passed and my own prayers flowed freely again. Christian music is a necessary element to worship; even my cynical self has to allow it that much. But eventually, we have to step out of the chapel and into the real world. And the real world has no time for your praise hands or your solemn chants.

Here lies my point: in a world where we are bombarded by the secular, we must try to find the eternal in the everyday.

Picture yourself driving down the road, listening to the radio, and dwelling on what that jerk at work had the audacity to say about one thing or another, and “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World comes on. When we are continually placing God on the forefront of our minds, that spunky 2001 hit can suddenly go from an angsty anthem to a reminder that we are a work in progress and that God sees us in the midst of our struggles and hurt. What if the music playing over the speakers at the grocery store allowed you an opportunity to call to mind heavenly truths rather than serve as a soundtrack to your weekly struggle to decide just how many bananas your toddler will eat this week? (Because it’s never the same amount twice, dang it!)

Often, we get so caught up in the never-ending minutia of daily life that we struggle to make time for dedicated prayer. When we are working, caring for our families, and trying to keep ourselves from losing our ever-loving minds, it’s easy to forget that literally everything we do can be a prayer or a sacrifice for ourselves and others if we are intentional with our time and energy. Working full-time with my babies in-tow has made time to sit down and pray become a luxury that my tired hiney simply cannot always afford. Training my ear to hear those little reminders in unexpected places offers me an opportunity during my hectic day to remember why I am doing any of this in the first place. Serving God and loving others is our daily task. Heaven is our goal. Our daily lives offer us millions of opportunities to offer everything to the glory of God. And if a song by The Oh Hellos causes me to stop what I’m doing and ponder my ever-present need for my Heavenly Father’s forgiveness, then praise God for The Lumineers Spotify station that played that song when I needed it most.

To Him through Her,


P. S. Here is a little Spotify playlist I made full of songs that help turn my thoughts to God in the midst of errands and Saturday deep-cleaning sessions. Enjoy!

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