Wood & Wire
When I was fourteen, I heard “Summer Song” by Joe Satriani on the stereo in my Uncle's truck. In those four minutes and fifty-six seconds, I decided what I wanted to do with my life: Play guitar.
I began with high hopes, but playing guitar slowly consumed me. I began noticing that bad days on guitar meant a bad day as a person. It began to define me. I didn't know that when your life is committed to something, or someone, as your end all - be all, that person or thing ends up defining your value and giving you your identity.
God eventually rescued me from this and showed me that my value as a person was not defined by wood, and wire (the consistency of a guitar), but rather by an infinite God who loves me for who He created me to be.
I believe many musicians struggle with, or simply embrace this reality. “I am how I can play.”
Can we avoid this?
The answer is yes; we can.
Here are some principles that can help you to do so, principles I abide by today. They apply across the board for musicians, but I'll use playing guitar in my examples.
1. Know your identity in Christ.
Your identity in Christ as a son or daughter of God does not fluctuate. Your playing affects it about as much as leaning sideways affects your car as you make a turn. It does nothing. All you have to do is to realize and accept the truth of this reality. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1)
We need to be vigilant in guarding against anything and everything that would take the place of this identity. Music can do this! To borrow from Matt Chandler, it’s a great gift but a terrible God.
2. Know your importance (or lack thereof) as an artist.
Let's make this clear, you are important. But it ultimately doesn't matter if you can play like Satriani. A sober self-assessment of your importance as an artist can free you from elated pride from thinking you rock, or distress from thinking you are never good enough. If you have a bad day or concert, so what! It’s not who you are! But if you have a great one? Awesome! But remember that God could cause a chimp to play better than you, so stay humble.
3. Know you're weak.
We are far too weak to do anything alone, We are all prone to idolatry, and need people around who can peer into our lives and offer counsel. When I was growing up practicing, instead of people saying, “You play so well!", What I wish someone would have said was, “How do you play so well? How’s your walk with Christ?"
The bottom line is that I've wrestled through these things for the past decade or so, and my hope is that this offers some help in facing what I believe is a very real issue among musicians. My hope is that God would raise up an army of artists who serve Him, humbly walking the fine line between pride and constant discouragement. Free to be, and do as they're supposed to.