This time, I’m going to keep my thoughts brief. It’s partially fatigue, but I don’t want my thoughts to overstay their welcome, either.
Tonight, I went to a concert. The kind of music doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this story, but it’s the kind of music that speaks to my soul. I don’t believe such a thing exists, but that choice of words still works for me. Let me tell you why.
When I was a child, my mother didn’t force me to go to church. She wanted me to make my own decisions, though there were certainly times when she tried to provide her own form of spiritual guidance. But I have never been a spiritual person. It showed in my deflection of her efforts, and in my lack of enthusiasm about church.
My mother didn’t make me go to church, but my grandmother did. She took me to a large southern baptist church on the weekends, and I was expected to sit through services and attend after-service Sunday School. I have many stories about this experience, and none of them good. Plenty of good Christians have lamented my experience there, wondering if this terrible place was solely responsible for pushing me away from faith.
I’m not going to tell those stories today, though I’d like to eventually. For now, I want to talk about music.
Only two things bound me to any belief in God. One of them was a crushing, all-consuming fear of Hell, which will be discussed another day. But the other was music. Church music made my heart flutter. It made me slide away into a strange and wonderful world, where my body felt light as a feather and my soul seemed to disconnect from my body. It made me high, and I loved it.
Then, when I was 13, my mother took me to my first rock concert. I was excited, as middle schoolers tend to be. The show was in an abandoned pig iron blast furnace in Birmingham, Alabama. That antiquated old place, which looms on the right side of the interstate as you roll into Magic City, was once the cornerstone of Birmingham’s economy. Now, it’s a seasonal haunted tourist site and a concert venue. Interesting how things change.
I remember standing in the stage area, occasionally glancing up at the furnace towers as the onset of evening consumed them in darkness, and I felt a primal sort of excitement. There were so many people. We stood packed together, but I didn’t mind. I eventually found a bit of high ground where I could see better. When the sun finally vanished and the artificial lights dimmed, I remember holding my breath.
When the band came out, I was in awe of seeing them in person. Any middle schooler would be, I imagine. But when the actual music started, it carried me away to a familiar place.
I realized in one jarring moment that the feeling wasn’t God. It never had been. It was music. It was just a love of music.
Just like that, one of those two delicate threads was cut.