What Would I do Without Christian Art?
(This post was written on Wednesday, 12th February, 2020)
I saw a few of my friends playing a game on their Instagram stories today. It required that they answered some random questions about themselves. One such question was ‘when was the last time you cried?’. Before this evening, my answer would have been September 2019 or the last time I was in an intense worship service. But on my ride home, I lost it on the bus and shed a few tears as This’l rapped his verse on the ‘Double Back’ song he was featured on by Flame. This basically typifies my relationship with good Christian art. I am usually lost for words and always in awe of the depth of revelation, the breath of the Spirit and the dexterity of the artist that is always present when I indulge in good Christian art. Feel free to classify this post as my Christian art appreciation post.
I have always been in love with art – especially literary art. From my childhood, I have been a huge fan of music too, especially rap music. I used to pride myself on the fact that there was no trending rap song I couldn’t rap along to from beginning to end. My friends knew this. They would always ask me to rap some popular songs to their hearing and I would oblige. One story I always recall and share with people as a joke is about an exercise we did in my Music and Dance class when I was in Class 5. Everybody was required to come up and sing a song. Most people went up to sing gospel songs or some popular R&B songs. We had this exercise 2 times that term. This was in the year 2000 and I was probably just 10 years old. During the first exercise, I went up to sing Sisqo’s ‘Unleash the dragon’ to the admiration of my friends. With all the controversy surrounding the lyrics of this song and the conspiracy theories, it was still the most popular song that year. During the second exercise, again, I went up with a friend of mine and we sang ‘thong song’ by Sisqo. I tell people that I didn’t even know what a thong was at that age, I only found out some years later.
Not too long after, I started writing my own raps in jotters and on pieces of paper. Thanks to my guy (Skelly) who had a computer mic and a software that could record, we tried to record a few of those verses. I had a verse that almost all my friends could rap along to from A to Z. This made me very proud. Started rap battling in JHS, the big deal here is I could freestyle under pressure at that tender age. Throughout my Senior High School days, I used to sneak out with some of my friends to radio stations for interviews and then to the studio to record songs and then come back to school. I remember one vacation I recorded a few songs, put them on a CD as a mixtape and took it to school. I lost it when the CD was in circulation amongst my friends. I have been a (mainstream) hip-hop head for as long as I can remember until recent times.
The very moment I set foot in the university I began to take my Christian life more seriously. However, the dramatic change happened during my school’s vacation in 2010. I was bored at home and as if driven by the devil himself I was looking for ‘something’ to watch. I combed through every CD in the house until I discovered a CD that changed my life and taste in the art I consume. It belonged to my elder brother who had just traveled to the U.S to pursue his masters. I inserted the CD into the computer and there it was in all its glory, the stage performance of Hillsong Worship’s ‘Faith Hope and Love’ album. Something happened that day. I am writing 10 years later, and I can state boldly that I haven’t looked back on Hillsong music since then. I was moved by the lyrics. I prayed with the songs. I couldn’t wait to share it with my roommates and friends in school. That was when it all began.
Because of my past relationship with mainstream Hip-hop music, I never really gravitated towards its ‘Christian alternative’. Christian Hip-hop (CHH) was so corny and sounded very wack to me. I concocted biblical arguments against the genre. I even wrote and performed a poem in which I spoke against CHH. I remember having serious arguments with my roommates who were madly in love with it. They played it so much in the room that one day we had a big argument that I thought was going to put a strain on our relationship. But you know how boys are, we fight, and we makeup and become even closer. I hope they read this. During one vacation probably in 2011, the Holy Spirit ministered to me and literally the scales fell from my eyes (it literally happened like that and he spoke to me about it). I went back the following semester a huge fan of CHH. I owe my love for CHH now to my roommates and friends. Whatever blessing I have received from it I pray they receive a double portion of that.
Look at me now. I used to argue against Lecrae now I am a die-hard fan who has written reviews of his albums and songs. I used to think that hymns and worship songs were boring, but look at me now, I can hardly keep my eyes dry during worship. I spend a considerable amount of time during each worship session I’m in fighting back tears. I know it is a poor practice because the bible says we should LOVE God with all our hearts, all our soul, and all our mind. This includes emotions, so when you feel like crying during worship, know that that is probably the manifestation of what is going on in your heart at that moment. I cannot quantify how much God has comforted me through Christian art. I cannot. It wrecks me. It wrecked me this evening and so I came back home to write this. I can literally remember what I was going through at what point in my life and which song helped me through that period. When I had problems with staying pure, lust and my daunting fleshly desires it was songs like ‘Temptation’ by the 116 Clique that helped me. Now picture me last year, walking from Galloway Junction in Koforidua to Jacksons Park, playing this song and rapping aloud to it. It was an amazing experience. Also, it was a powerful song like ‘Murder me’ by Swoope that fed me with the idea that I need to be sadistic towards my flesh in order to awaken my spirit. Swoope sounded cruel in that song. He detailed his ‘evil’ desire to mortify the flesh in a way that I have never heard before. Those 2 rap verses in that song almost made him sound suicidal. He said, ‘ego straight to the guillotine big head gets chopped off’. This line has stayed with me for years. Paul said ‘those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh together with its desires and passions’. You must be intentional about it. Silence the flesh. Be wicked to it. And that is what I learned from that song.
Also, that ‘Double Back’ song by Flame ft. This’l I mentioned earlier is what triggered this post this evening. I couldn’t help it. These two rappers preached a sermon on the song about how Christians need to restore each other back to righteousness whenever any of us falls in sin. That’s the word in Galatians 6. One line moved me to tears. Flame said, ‘if my brother is riding on a flat, let me be the spare’. Wow! That is to say that if my brother has a flat tyre and he is still driving let me be his spare tyre. Now he didn’t say let me hand him my spare tyre, he literally meant you need to contort your body till it resembles a car tyre then you coil yourself around your brother’s car rim and be his spare tyre. Amazing! We are not sent to be comfort dispensers to those in sorrow. We are supposed to be their comfort. That’s the logic behind that line.
Somewhere in 2014, I was harboring some resentment against someone for hurting me emotionally. I felt like the most stupid person ever created for allowing my heart to go on a wild goose chase in a desert. I was bitter and hurt. Too embarrassed about it to tell a soul. My friends are probably going to read this and be shocked. In those times, it was Andy Mineo’s song ‘bitter’ that helped me through it. He spoke about failed relationships with women and the sore relationship he had with his dad. I also really went through some hard times in 2018. Scratch that, from 2015 till 2019, life hasn’t been easy for me at all. I pray and the problems disappear like magicians and reappear in new clothes. As if my prayer was part of a magic act to make them vanish and reappear in new apparel to the applause of the audience and to my disdain. One of the songs that got me through that season was KB’s ‘Sing to you’. The highlight of that song is how KB illustrates to his listeners that present in the Godhead at this very moment is a man who experienced the pains we go through in this world. This is Jesus. He gave a command to his followers to go and take up their crosses and follow him, and before we could obey this command, he went ahead to carry his and died on it. As such, when I pray to this God, I know he understands my plight and hears me when I call. I read about Jesus’ first encounter with his disciples after he resurrected. One thing I observed was how he seemed eager to prove to them his humanity although he appeared in his glorified body. Our God can feel our pain when we call out to him because he has felt our pain in the flesh before.
I saw a Lecrae interview by DJ WadeO some years ago in which he was asked whether he listened to worship music often. He said not really, and that was because KB’s songs ‘get him in that (worship) space’. I understood what he meant perfectly and feel the same way about KB’s songs. However, for me, I still go in for worship music. I love worship songs with onion essence that just make me shed tears like I misplaced something valuable. I have no mentor or anybody ‘discipling’ me directly as some people have Spiritual mothers and fathers. I have several friends who are strong in the LORD I can speak to though. But sometimes when I need encouragement, which I tend to need every so often, I get it from worship songs. It is overwhelming, Hillsong’s ‘Seasons’ and ‘Highlands’ have helped me tremendously overcome some tough seasons and mountains in my life in these past 2 years. I just want to send a big shout out to worship songwriters and ministers. They create the soundtrack of our lives every time they step in the studio to record. And for me, they create the soundtrack of my prayer life because I love to pray with some worship music playing in the background unless I get strict instructions from the Holy Spirit not to. When I wake up to pray, I’m usually spoilt for choice as to which album to play. I’m usually like ‘so what’s it gon be today? Joe Mettle’s “Wind of Revival” or Nathaniel Bassey’s “The King is coming”. Hillsong or Bethel Revival choir? Maybe my worship playlist (which has songs from a wide range of gospel artists from different parts of the world)’. I basically go through that train of thought every single time before I pray.
I am a spoken word artist myself, so I binge on good Christian spoken word as well. My favorites are the Poets in Autumn poets. Their skill, message and level of depth in revelation all coupled with impeccable stage performances have impacted my life in a million ways. I started writing spoken word poetry because I saw some of these people do it for the Lord with a high level of excellence and anointing. I desired it earnestly. And worked at it. I love doing spoken word poetry. I am still surprised people are blessed by the stuff I write. It is because the writing process can sometimes feel like a mundane activity devoid of the leading of the Spirit. But hey, your feelings are sometimes the poorest detectors of the move of the Spirit. What I feel has nothing to do with what the Spirit intends to do in the lives of people with this poem I just wrote.
I want to also send a special shout out to Christian authors and novelists. I have read several authors from whom I have learned deep Christian lessons. I also learn a lot from their writing skills and incorporate all of that into my own writing. I was once at an event where one of the Chronicles of Narnia stories was being staged. As Aslan returned from the dead, half of the audience had their hands in the air like it was a worship concert. My heart almost exploded in worship as well. All because, a master writer (C.S Lewis), recrafted the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in a way that lays emphasis on Jesus’ ability to avoid the cross or refuse to go through with it yet his willingness to be sacrificed like a lamb. I caught this when I saw Aslan willingly lay down his life for a very stubborn boy.
Big shout outs to the Bible Project for all that they do to make the bible simpler to understand and the stories easier to relate to. There are so many Christian artists who have impacted my life positively, but time and space are not my best allies at this moment. God bless all Christian artists who are doing the work of God with a high level of dedication, perseverance and discipline. God bless you. The Spirit is truly working through all of you. I am an artist and my desire is to see people blessed by my work. I just want to thank the many who appreciate those poems that I write, I wish to improve and even impact the world like my heroes in the Christian Arts ministry have done.