For the first time in months, I finally re-downloaded Spotify back onto my phone.
I've had a large amount of apprehension engaging with music streaming services. I used to log thousands of hours with Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, getting lost in the digital soundscape, an endless soundtrack to my life, for me to get lost in.
Recently, I deleted all streaming apps off my phone. I found myself getting too lost in tracks that boasted noisy, distracting production and lyrics that had a negative impact on me emotionally and spiritually.
But this morning, I decided to revisit what I once perceived as a "spiritual evil" in my life. I re-downloaded Spotify (the free version, I'm not a student anymore and ain't no way am I budgeting to spend $10 more every month for music).
On my walk up to campus (I'm a part-time campus missionary, leading a small group and spiritually mentoring students as they follow Jesus) I played what the kids call lo-fi jazz hop. It's mainly instrumentals, with some sort of eclectic beat and light production layered on top. Then, during my devotional time, meditating on Scripture, I switched over to a playlist of simple recordings of rainfall.
Looking back at what I've written so far, this all seems very mundane. Very "well duh." Listening to peaceful, instrumental music is nothing new to urban, modern Bellingham culture. But maybe that's not the culture I'm writing to.
I'm writing to those who seem to be at odds with technology, with how it's currently at play in your life.
If you're a Christian, you've probably heard from pastors preaching at the pulpit that cell phones are satanic devices, with access to pornography and all sorts of sinful temptation.
OK, so I'm not going to laugh at those pastors.
But maybe I'll give a light snicker.
I get it. We should 100% distance ourselves from anything that gives way to temptation. Jesus makes that perfectly clear in His teachings. But what does that practically look like for yourself?
For me, I don't have social media on my phone. I also disabled my web browser. Honestly, I don't really feel that you should destroy your smartphone to find freedom from sin: that's God's job.
If you can't have a smartphone and see yourself being transformed from your life of sin to one of repentance and spiritual discipline, I feel like that's way more on you, not the phone.
For me, I've found something beautiful about having access to playlists and tracks that calm my attention, that provide a focused soundtrack that both quiet the noises around me while elevating my attention to the "noise" of the Spirit, aka God's voice. It helped me live out a life example Jesus led:
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" — (Mark 1:35, NIV).
I want to encourage you, yes you the reader, this week: when you spend time alone with God, play some calming background music as you read Scripture or voice your prayers. Experiment with what it has created for me: an environment, a unique space where you can find solitude and retreat from the distractions and noises of this world to fully focus on hearing and inquiring of God. Jesus didn't necessarily need lo-fi jazz to focus on God's voice... but it might help us do just that.