Don’t try this at home. Actually, don’t try this anywhere. I’ve done some smart things in my life, and I’ve also done some stupid things. The following is one of the stupid things…
I decided to conduct an experiment on New Year’s Eve some years back. I was playing bass guitar for a party among friends, just some casual grooving with a couple of buddies. I knew from previous experience that a little bit of beer actually affected my playing positively. I was more relaxed, I grooved easier. So when I could, I’d enjoy a brew before I performed. That got me thinking…
If one beer made me play better, would two make me even more groovy? And if two made me even better, more relaxed, would three…well, you get the idea. How many would it take for me to actually play worse, not better? I was trying to find the “pint of diminishing returns˚,” if you will.
Although foolish*, the experiment worked. By my third beer that night, I was pulling off licks that I had never even thought of previously. The alcohol had relaxed my brain enough to let my heart speak straight to my hands. But at some point through my fourth brew, I noticed the guitarist giving me a confused look. I looked down at my hands.
I was riding a note one half-step above of the chord root (also known as the wrong-est note possible). Although I sounded profoundly bad, my ears hadn’t communicated the error to my brain. I was sucking, and I didn’t even know it.
3ish beers. Experiment complete.
In 2009, I saw a community of people who had relationship with God that was unlike any I had seen before. They had a friendship, an intimacy with Him that I didn’t even know was possible. I was so intrigued by it that I left Nashville for California and spent a couple years with these people at a place called Bethel.
I grew up with an understandingº that one’s intimacy with God was proportional to one’s level of church leadership. That meant that getting close to God was a process of making my life look like my pastor’s. He was my example, he was the goal. I should be in a small group so that I could eventually lead the small group, and maybe someday lead the small group leaders. This was the road to intimacy with God.
That presented a problem for me, the freelance musician. Gigs I would take as a means to pay rent would oftentimes take me out of town, which meant missing some church meetings and small groups. This obviously conflicted with growing in church leadership, and was therefore in direct conflict with my relationship with God.
I loved music, but I was hungry for Peace. Putting aside the bass, my passion, to chase God in California may have looked like a noble sacrifice to some, but it wasn’t. It was an easy choice. There’s a certain point when you’ve seen enough of God that you have no other option but to see more of Him.
I arrived in California thinking that my dreams as a musician were likely mere “selfish desires of the flesh,” and God would soon reveal to me a holier career plan (most likely church leadership). In my first couple months there, though, I was struggling quite a bit to experience God at all. This was a genuine shock to me. “I left Nashville for you! I’m ready to give up my career pursuits for you! So where are you?!”
God was so obviously moving in everyone else around me, which only made my lack more painful. Most days I felt like I had been sealed up in a Ziploc bag and dropped in the ocean. Everyone was soaking in God’s presence while I merely observed, dry as could be.
I did end up playing some music at Bethel. Everyone always needs a bass player, and so I played for worship nights sometimes. It was on one of these nights that God changed my mind.
There was a guest worship leader visiting who was especially groovy. For the first time since moving to California, I got to really play. It was so much fun. It was pure peace and joy for me. (When moments like these happen, I cannot look cool at all. I just smile wide and bounce around like a 5 year-old.)
So there I was, bouncing around with a silly grin, when I caught the leader’s eyes. He looked confused. I looked down at my hands…yep. I was riding a note one half-step above the root. Didn’t even know it. “Yikes!” I thought, “That hasn’t happened since—”
And I heard God speak to me. “Since you were drunk? That’s true. Haven’t you wanted to feel what it’s like to be ‘drunk in the Spirit?’ You’ve been looking for me, but I’ve been waiting here. I’ve been hiding in the place you most love to go: music. This is our ‘secret place.’”
This blog post is the second part to something I wrote a few days ago about the moment of music. That place of deep escape.
For so long I had viewed music as my most faithful friend. No matter what pain I was feeling, I could always find refuge in music, I could get lost. While I loved doing this, I did so with the sinking feeling that God was supposed to be my true source of comfort. But He was just my refuge theologically, not practically.
In my mind, God’s refuge was all about fixing and growing. But all I was looking for was some understanding. It was a dramatic shift of thinking to realize that God wasn’t withholding intimacy from me until I grew in faith or leadership. Actually, enjoying His presence was far more instinctive, and…enjoyable.
Since that night of spiritually drunken groove, I’ve been practicing inviting God into the moments. It’s a profoundly freeing thing to know that my heart’s passion (music) was not given to me to be denied, but rather to provide a unique avenue to experience my Father’s lavish affection. Now even my break-up songs feel like worship songs, and the moments are even sweeter.
With all the WiFi in this coffee shop,
˚ For more dad jokes, you can visit my other blog at blakeispunny.blogspot.com/thisisntarealwebsite.html
* I realize there are folks who read this that actually don’t know me at all. So for your sake, my future friend, please know that I don’t endorse drunkenness via alcohol. I have since found a better way to get tipsy…
º Like I’ve said before, what I was taught was often different from what I understood, and I by no means intend to cast a negative light on those who brought me up. (Dang, when did these º things start being all disclaimy? I’ll try to bring back the silly jokes and video links)