by Joanie Butman
Thursday night I had the privilege of attending a Taylor Swift concert and was treated to VIP privileges by my host. As I will probably not have the pleasure of enjoying VIP status again until I reach Heaven where we will all be given the royal treatment, I reveled in the proximity to the stage (as well as the free food and drinks.) Witnessing Ms. Swift perform up close, her joy in her craft oozed out of every pore and saturated everyone around her. Yes, joy is contagious. It was obvious that I was observing someone who was doing exactly what God created her for. It was mesmerizing.
That said, there was another dimension to her performance that I wasn’t aware of until the ride home. My niece filled me in on the backstory of Ms. Swift’s recent ‘sabbatical’ and her reemergence with the Reputation album and tour. This concert wasn’t just about her music, it was about her rebirth. Oddly enough, before attending the concert I was writing about how difficult the 20’s can be as we struggle to discover who we are and find our place in the world. It’s equivalent to being in the birth canal. And like all births, some are easier than others, but they all involve struggle.
If my decade from 15 to 25 had been documented complete with audio visual, my reputation would be in tatters as well, and it would take more than a year-long sabbatical to repair the wreckage. Kudos to Taylor Swift for choosing to step back to reflect and learn from her experiences. As with any artist, TS makes sense of her world through her music. Reputation is no exception. One of her lyrics sums up the Reputation message, “I’m sorry, but the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh. ‘Cause she’s dead.”
At 28, Taylor Swift shared the wisdom she acquired during her leave of absence, emerging with a maturity that can only be acquired through suffering. One of the truths she reveals in her poem “Why She Disappeared” is that she had to sit in her brokenness – an uncomfortable reality most of us try to avoid at all costs. However, you have to be willing to acknowledge and sit with your pain before you can learn from it. It’s the only way to grow beyond it. Out of the ashes of that pain, a new and improved version of ourself emerges, grateful for the lessons we learned despite the pain. Older and wiser is the result of living through that cycle again and again. It’s a life-long process. We are never done.
As a Christian, dying to self is essential to our rebirth. Paul instructs in Ephesians 4:22, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self.” When you are confident in who you are and whose you are, you are free to truly live unencumbered by the expectations and opinions of others. As a Christian, I am grounded in the love of Christ, and that is something I can never lose. Even so, no one is immune to hurtful comments, misunderstood intentions or unfair criticism. Yet, when our self-worth is rooted in Christ, we can always find comfort in His everlasting love. After all, He knows better than anyone what it’s like to lose your reputation – to be betrayed, wrongfully accused, condemned, scorned and rejected. Whatever ails you, choose to let His love be a healing balm for your soul.