AG-BTF-COVER-FINAL-550 Okay so this post is not about botox or skinny jeans, (disappointing, I know) but it is about a song by an artist who sings about those things. Well…only sometimes…

On the late-night acoustic stage at a Christian music festival I attended over a decade ago there were three Nashville singer-songwriters playing some of the most deeply unique and clever songs I had ever heard. Ben Shive, Andrew Peterson, and the man pictured above, Andy Gullahorn, expanded my horizons on how certain ideas and truths could be expressed in the art of songwriting (I’ve linked their websites at the bottom of this post for your listening pleasure). Ever since that night at the music festival I have explored the three musicians work in the form of buying their records and seeing them countless times preform live. I often get on kicks where I will listen to one of them more often than another. Lately however I have been listening to a lot of Andy Gullahorn. Among some of the his more light-hearted  songs about botox and skinny jeans, there are songs that exceptionally and intelligently strike a nerve that is all too real. From singing about addiction and the death of a child, to singing about forgiveness and grace, Andy’s song-writing truly captures the essence of our humanity. In listening to Andy over the last several years there is one song that time and again brings me to think about what this page is dedicated to: discernment and vocations.

Combating Emotional Christianity

On Andy’s sixth studio album, Beyond the Frame, there is a song entitled “Any Less True”, give it a listen here:

Now there’s a lot going on in this song, but I would like to focus on the over-arching theme: Truth is still truth even when we fall short and the emotional connection is gone. Unfortunately as humans one of our (many) bad tendencies is to confuse authentic truth with truth dictated by our emotions or feelings.  This occurs very often in what I like to call “Emotional Christianity.” Please do not get me wrong here, I am not saying that having an emotional connection with God is a bad thing, in fact it is a very good thing. I am simply saying that a relationship with God (or with anyone really) can become problematic if it is purely emotion based. Because what if that emotion goes away or changes? Does God go away or does truth change? What if, because of my personalty or personal experience, I never have that emotional response? Does that make the Gospel, or God’s love for me any less true? Having an emotional connection with God is a wonderful thing. But the hope is always that it leads us into a deeper, more personal relationship with God that is rooted in truth, not only emotion.

Any Less True

Okay so what does this have to do with discernment or vocations? Let’s start by looking at the final verse of this song. Andy sings “they say God listens to our prayers. When you’re suffering, he holds you. I don’t feel Him anywhere.” How often during our discernment process does it feel like God is nowhere to be found? That no matter how many times we ask God for some direction, it doesn’t feel like we’re getting any answers? It can feel a whole lot like suffering sometimes. But Andy completes the line by reassuring us that even when you don’t feel God’s direction or even His existence, it doesn’t make the reality of His omnipresence any less true. In short, don’t be discouraged. God is always leading us towards Himself, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Let’s jump back to the first two verses. Here the connection to vocations is more explicit. Andy sings about life long commitment and love. And how even when he breaks promises and sometimes wants to run away, it doesn’t make the reality of his love or commitment any less true. Here’s my point: even after we have responded to whatever vocation God is calling us to, whether it be married life, priesthood or religious life, or consecrated single life, we will still encounter difficulties and hardships. We will still make promises that we will fail to keep, we will still want to run away from the harshest seasons of life, and the emotional feelings that we once had for our vocation will change and fade. But that doesn’t make the reality of the sacred vow and covenantal bond of our vocation any less true. It is prandy gullahornecisely in the moments of hardship and suffering that the deepest realities of our vocation (and ourselves for that matter) can be revealed.

So no matter where you are in your discernment process, no matter if you’re married or a priest or religious or single, know that God is with you. Not that God will be with you, or can be from time to time, no. God is with you right now, leading you. Yes, there will be difficult times and emotional variances, but that does not make God’s perpetual presence and guidance any less true.

 Ben Shive 

Andrew Peterson

Andy Gullahorn