Hello, my name is Kat Bair, I am 31 years old and I am a Swiftie – aka a fan of American musical icon, Taylor Swift. Being raised in Nashville in the 2000s meant that I, along with millions of other tween girls, spent my adolescence belting Teardrops on My Guitar into a hairbrush and recreating the Love Story music video in my backyard.
Now, fifteen years and ten studio albums later, I still sing Taylor Swift to my steering wheel and play it for my children like my parents played Jim Croce and Eric Clapton for me.
Accordingly, when Taylor brought her massive, record-breaking tour to town this past weekend, I consumed TikTok after TikTok posted by fellow fans. On the last night of the tour’s run in Nashville, there was a massive thunderstorm. The venue was an outdoor arena so the start of the show was delayed several times due to lightning strikes. There was concern the show would be canceled (a not-insignificant inconvenience for the 71,000 attendees that night, not counting the thousands more watching from surrounding bridges and rooftops). But Taylor went on around 11pm, and performed her full three and a half hour, 45 song set, until nearly 2 in the morning, all in the pouring rain.
I told my husband about the delay and he remarked how miserable standing in a crowd at one o’clock in the morning in the rain sounded.
I couldn’t help but imagine how magical it must have been. When I watched those videos, of 70,000 plus people singing along at the top of their lungs, dancing in the rain, in the middle of the night, I found myself jealous, despite the discomfort (and $2,000 price tag).
It’s not like I can’t sing Taylor Swift in my own home, dry, at a reasonable hour, for free, but there is a magic in doing it alongside others, when you are all fully present in a one-of-a-kind experience together. The unself-conscious enthusiasm, the unrestrained joy, is special. There is something intoxicating in singing at the top of your lungs along with a crowd of strangers.
So many of my formative experiences with faith as a teenager and young adult involve the feeling of transcendence in a worship experience, losing myself in the opportunity to sing and pray in worship alongside others. As mission trip leader, camp counselor, and youth pastor, I saw in young people, and experienced first hand, how moved people could be. The experience of self-forgetfulness, of connection to something bigger than yourself is powerful.
So what is it about the last night of mission trips and Taylor Swift shows that has the capacity to take our breath away? And what could that teach us about how who we are as beings made in the image of God? How do we, as people who lead faith communities, offer people the chance to truly lose themselves, to be fully in on something?
We have to spend so much of our time with one foot in one world, one foot in another – watching our kids and scrolling our phone; sitting in a meeting and checking our feeds; we diversify our investments, hold our boundaries in our relationships, and try to find balance between all the things we are asked to be and do. And that’s good and healthy for the most part. But every once in a while, it can feel so liberating to just lose yourself and all your constant thinking in a moment.
In the book of Revelations, there is imagery of choirs of believers singing for all eternity. This image of worshipping God forever sounded profoundly boring to me as a child, when my only context for worship was a service where I sat next to my parents, sang hymns and wore frilly socks. But when I imagine that worship as the worship that has the joy and enthusiasm of a 70,000 person Taylor Swift concert, where everyone has great seats, and every song is your favorite one, and your feet never hurt and your voice never gives out, then I get it in a new way.
Transcendent experiences can break through the thick crust of every day and warm a part of us we keep hidden. A part of us that desperately desires to get swept away in something, to lose ourselves.This desire itself may be holy, it may be a pointing towards the way we are called to lose ourselves in God and to find solace and purpose in community. It may be just reminding us that we are called to do more than just juggle the plates of our lives. It may be reminding us that there is something so much more mysterious and mystical, something outside of our ability to rationalize, that we can find in faith.
So maybe even those of us who express our faith as often in plans and financial models as we do in art can find ways to create space for transcendent moments as previews of an eternity to come. And maybe those moments can humble us enough to remember that there’s some workings of God that are outside of what we can truly understand.
I hope that you have the chance to experience worship that allows you to get swept up in the moment and sing at the top of your lungs in a crowd of strangers. Or at least into your hairbrush.