Do you remember the first song or album that you really connected with the lyrics? Like do you remember the first time a song or album moved you or really resonated within you? It may sound silly, but for me it was this Michael W. Smith Christmas album that he released in the 80s. There was something about the music and those lyrics that just filled me up. I think Manchester Orchestra's Mean Everything to Nothing is that album for Isaiah. Andy Hull, the lead man, is a pastor's kid. His lyrics often speak to that, his rocky relationship with his dad, his jaded attitude toward church, and his struggle with faith.
After the concert, Isaiah and I had a good talk about all of this. I asked him what he thought of M.O.'s lyrics. He said he really liked them and he said "I really think I understand them". We talked about how it's actually very common for PKs to grow up hating church and eventually abandoning their faith. I told Isaiah that it's actually a flippin' miracle that both my brothers and I are pastors. Not that I didn't fight against it.
I really did grow up bitter at church, partly because of my perception that my dad cared more for the church than he did for us (I don't think that's true anymore), and partly because of the way I saw churches treat my dad. I really rejected the notion of being a pastor for several years, because I didn't want that to be my family's experience. I think the key thing for me eventually coming around to embracing God's calling for me, was that I was able to separate my dysfunctional church experiences from my relationship with Christ. One was screwed up and even abusive, and the other was meaningful and personal. I've since been able to leave all that baggage behind and learn to genuinely love the Church. But it literally took a decade to do it.
That's my goal for my kids. I won't always be able to control their church experience or perceptions of me and my ministry. But I hope they come away with a deep-rooted relationship with Jesus. If that happens, that will be enough to carry them through.
Isaiah and I were able to talk about all of this and he assured me that, so far, he doesn't have any of that bitterness toward God or the church. (I think he identifies more with the lyrics about not getting along with his dad.) He also promised me that if he ever felt any of that bitterness, he would talk to me about it so I could make changes if necessary. It ended up being a great night and a meaningful conversation with my son.
Some people might ask why I would intentionally expose him to bands with these kind of lyrics. My answer is so I can create environments where I can have the conversation I had with him last night. I don't like listening to music where the lyrics are overtly anti-God or offensive to the faith. But I have no problem appreciating artists who share their struggle with their faith. Artists are able to do this in a way that most of the rest us can't quite give a voice to. It's sad, but beautiful all at once.