Am I The Only One?
In my story, I mention leaving the stage area at Electric Forest and returning to the campground during the peak of the festival. I felt alone at first, but then noticed that I wasn’t. When I got far enough away, where the songs were indiscernible and the bass was reduced to a dull thud, I could hear quiet chatter, rustles, or tearful sniffles among the tents.
After the festival, I began to think that I couldn’t possibly be the only one being called to clean up their life. As a fan of all types of music, I became especially aware of songs where the lyrics really resonated with my own story of turning away from the “thrill” of drugs and partying.
I began to read up on the artists who wrote these songs and found that they had stories similar to mine. It sounds like they too were seeking joy and initially went down the wrong paths looking for it. Each story is unique, but they struggled with at least one of these: a sex-fueled lifestyle, excessive partying, alcohol, drugs, turning away from family, harboring anger/resentment, or clinging to earthly possessions.
The dangerous part of these vices is that they always start out small, and then next time you want a little more, and then a little more, until it starts to consume your life.
In this post, I compile stories of some artists I admire whose stories of conversion inspire me. They help strengthen my conviction that God exists and wants every single one of us to move closer to him. Jesus came here to call the sinners, after all.
And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.
And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”—Matthew 9:10-13, RSVCE
Jon Bellion released the album The Human Condition in 2016 and he writes very truthful, honest songs. Some themes he sings about that relate to different times in my own life are: battling with pride, making time for getting drunk and high but “not having time” to talk to family, relationship challenges, and questions about God.
In songs like “Maybe IDK” and “Hand of God” he sings very clearly about God. In interviews, he makes known his relationship with God.
“Many artists are constantly searching and trying to prove themselves. We may wake up as millionaires but have no family, no roots, no grounding. That’s why I recently became a devout Christian. I’m fascinated by Jesus and pray to him every day. It’s freed me up. I came to the realization that I’m a child of God and that’s my identity. If this all goes tomorrow I don’t have the proverbial rug under me that can be pulled out. I’m taken care of and there’s someone who loves me.”—Jon Bellion
His song “Human” really hit home for me, as it reminded me of my misguided days.
Shawn has been very clear about his own life story and conversion. He was involved in drugs and went to EDM shows looking for answers. He felt a spiritual emptiness and tried witchcraft, Hinduism, and Rastafarianism. He eventually got involved with drug dealing. I had considered growing marijuana or mushrooms for personal use and income, and likely would have if God hadn’t drawn me away from that lifestyle.
“I was looking for purpose. I was looking for love. I was looking for anything that would fill me in those times and that’s why I was doing all the drugs and partying all the time because I was finding some sense of—it was like a menial—satisfaction. And eventually in there I started getting spiritual too. I was really into Bob Marley. I really was into his way of thinking and I thought it was cool that he could smoke weed and speak of God and do his own thing. I really embraced that. I can’t really say it did anything for me. I can’t say that for everybody but for me it didn’t do anything.”—Shawn McDonald
One of my favorite songs by him his “What Are You Waiting For” which invites others to move towards God.
Lecrae is a rapper who, like Shawn McDonald, has shared his conversion story very openly. He didn’t have a father figure growing up and found a father in God.
Brian Welch (Former Lead Guitarist of Korn)
In the nu metal era of the 90s, I gravitated mostly towards Linkin Park, but I definitely did listen to a few of Korn’s hit songs. Brian Welch is the cofounder of Korn. His story really hit home because I too was trying to use alcohol and drugs to find joy and was making false conclusions that drugs could bring me closer to answers and to God.
“I was like could it…could Jesus be real? I was thinking that in my mind. Is this guy not just a goodie-goodie? Could there really be a God? And is he calling me? I felt like God told me right there, ‘I revealed myself to you last night. It’s time for you to stop the drugs. It’s time for you to be done.’ And I was just consumed with fear. I went and grabbed all my drugs and threw ’em in the toilet and just said, ‘I’m done God. I’m yours now. I’m yours.’ And that was the last time I did drugs.”—Brian Welch
God also made it clear to me that the drugs and alcohol needed to end. We all have our own relationship with God and so he speaks to us in different ways. For me, it wasn’t a voice I heard, but rather a really deep feeling of regret in the pit of my heart. My heart felt heavy and it was making my gut churn.
After Electric Forest, I had smoked weed one other time but I felt so wrong and unhappy doing it. That was my last time doing it. I also poured out all my alcohol. I had a full bar so it was over 12 gallons worth. While I will have a drink or two occasionally, I stop before it affects my mind and I make sure I’m not doing it because of the social pressure to do so. Drinking alcohol is not sinful, it’s the excess of it. Drunkenness itself can lead to other sins since it affects our self-discipline.
Mike Posner is probably best known for a couple hits early in his career, namely “Cooler Than Me” and “Bow Chicka Wow Wow.” He writes songs for other artists too and has an amazing gift. Some of the tracks on his 2016 album “At Night, Alone” took a decidedly different turn.
When I first heard the single “Be As You Are” I was completely stunned because (1) it wasn’t what I expected from Mike Posner, based on the themes of his previous songs but more so because (2) it hit so close to my heart.
I immediately listened to the rest of his album, and songs like “Only God Knows,” “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” “One Hell of a Song,” and “Buried in Detroit” made an uncanny connection with me and my own story. Themes like battling with pride, wasting money on buying possessions, sleeping around with women, and feeling empty from these things. He writes about God and how he believes he needs to use the talents he was given for good. I admire the truth in his words.
In “One Hell of a Song” he talks about his maturation and growth and redirecting his talents towards doing God’s will.
The Journey is Tough
Every person—musical artist or otherwise—is on their own journey towards God or away from God. We are all given free will to choose our own adventure. Sadly, some artists get swept too far into the world of drugs, alcohol, or sex and die from overdoses, disease, or suicide.
Even after turning back towards God, it’s not like life suddenly becomes super easy. After doing away with sex, pornography, drugs, alcohol, stealing, etc. I do feel as true to myself as I did when I was a child, and that gives me peace and joy, but the holy life presents its own new challenges. It’s a life of the cross, but I’m convinced by the visions God gave me that the earthly suffering I—and anyone for that matter—endure for his sake will absolutely be worth the eternity in heaven that he invites us to.