I remember waking up early on Sunday mornings to the sounds of gospel music flowing through the house. I immediately knew that Mom was cooking breakfast. As I would get dressed, I would hear her sing along to many of the songs that played. Needless to say, music has always been an important memory in my mind.
My dad was a DJ long before he met my mom, and my mom loves to dance. This was most certainly a match made in heaven. Both of them grew up on the classiness of Motown, balancing between soul and funk. A road trip wasn’t a road trip until Aretha Franklin sang “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” Christmas wasn’t Christmas until Luther Vandross belted out “This Christmas.” Music is very important to the Edwards household. Even over the miles between Atlanta and Lafayette, dad and I have a special bond over Marvin Gaye, his favorite artist and my favorite for late night work.
As I grew up, I always had a song in my head. I loved tapping out beats on the countertop in the kitchen. It was this love of music that led me to play the tenor saxophone and later the Cajon, djembe, acoustic guitar, and the bongos.I loved playing music just as much as do listening to it. By the time I got to high school, you wouldn’t find me without my prized earbuds, and if I didn’t have them, you could count on me being in a mood. Music became an escape for the drama, boringness, and pain of ordinary life. I could put in my earbuds and hit play, and everything else would fade away from existence. The world would become beautiful again.
When I got to college, I put some money into 40mm driver headphones, so that I would get a much better music experience. I became to known to strangers as “that guy with the headphones.” I don’t say that out of arrogance; I actually met a girl and that is how she identified me. Music became a beautiful lifeblood for my soul. I had to have it to work, to think, to stay in touch with myself. Even as I write this post, I am sitting in my dorm, using my roommate’s surround sound speaker system to listen to Curtis Mayfield. I don’t feel that I could write this without it.
Why is that?
It is because I am an addict. Music is like my security blanket that gives me an emotional high. It put a barrier between me and the real world. I loved my own fantasy, which came with it’s own soundtrack. I recognized I was a serious addict in May before I went to San Diego. Out there, we (As leaders) admitted that headphones and earbuds were not only a distraction but a great way to keep ourselves from getting to know people. As we agreed, inside I was frustrated. I knew that banning headphones while on mission was the right move, but I loved my headphones. That was when I recognized something else almost a month later.
My music was an idol.
I was frustrated because I couldn’t use my headphones even though I knew that it prevented me from sharing the Gospel. My music library had become more important than the Great Commission. I was extremely convicted, so I put the headphones away. I started looking at the world as it was. I still play my instruments, and when I need to focus I listen to music, but gone are the days of always having headphones in. When I started doing this, I was terrified. I thought that I would hate not having music, going into my own version of withdrawal symptoms.
I was wrong. The world was more beautiful with its natural noises than it seemed with my music in. I met more people and have had gospel-centered nearly every week.
If the blog post ended here, everything would be ok. A beautiful, happy ending. If you want that, stop reading here. But, if you want the real story, keep reading.
I relapsed a couple of weeks ago. I have had a tough couple of weeks and lost a couple of things very close to me. I was lonely and depressed. So, I went to the bookstore and bought cheap earbuds, lying to myself and saying I would use them for studio work only. The minute I got out of the bookstore, I ripped into them, plugging them in, and enjoying the sweet relief of music, blocking out everything else. I needed my music on a subconscious level.
I stopped talking to people, becoming self-absorbed, angry, and despondent. I stopped opening up to those I love, wrapping myself in my own little bubble. I stopped trusting God with myself and went back to trusting only myself.
See, here’s the thing. God created this world, and it doesn’t have its own score. The cool thing is that it doesn’t need one. The birds singing, the laughter of friends, the cries of loneliness are all beautiful enough without it anything else. Does this mean music is bad? No. This isn’t a black and white thing. But when anything keeps me from sharing the gospel, especially my own addictions, it’s bad. However, music can be a segway for the gospel. Certain songs truly reflect the glory of God, and that can be a great platform for evangelism. But, we have to keep the gospel as the priority, not of just one part of our lives, but the whole thing.
So, I’ve put the headphones back in the drawer. I’ll hold onto them but won’t carry them everywhere anymore. The world is too beautiful to shut myself off from it. And, you can count on me to listen to gospel music on Sunday morning, as just a reminder of the simpler times.