They say God works in mysterious and unexpected ways, but only if it’s mysterious and unexpected in a realistic and not completely ridiculous way, of course.
When I told my fellow church-goers that I think God introduced Himself to me through a mainstream boyband, they looked at me like I’d been drinking on a Sunday morning. Thing is, I get how far-fetched it sounds. I get the raised eyebrows. I get it, but I don’t agree.
So bear with me, because I’m about to try and explain why I believe with all my heart that God made Himself known to me through a pop band called McFly.
Despite having been christened and raised in a Christian background, when I joined the circus that is being a teenager, I lost sight. It wasn’t that I was an atheist, or even agnostic; I just didn’t tend to think about it that much. There were grades and clothes and nice-looking boys to contend with, and religion, apart from a weekly RE lesson and a few outings to church on special occasions, was simply not on my radar.
But I did have faith. I had faith in something.
In late 2003, when I was right on the cusp of adolescence, McFly entered my life. For the next several years, I had complete faith that this band and their music would never fail to pick me up, to guide me and to allow me a unique joy. Their music has always spoken to me intimately – I’ll Be OK was my go-to song when I needed to be pushed onwards in the midst of potentially overwhelming moments; Not Alone, as its title would suggest, reminded me time and time again that my struggles were not unique; and in later years, tracks like POV and That’s The Truth comforted me through the trials of young adulthood. Their back catalogue was my Bible. During the many times I went to see them perform live, I felt totally lifted. I could never adequately explain why a pop band could give me such a divine experience.
In 2011, having just moved away from home for university, I joined a church and found God on my own terms. The years that followed brought with them a great deal of insight into God’s work and His constant, unconditional presence in my life, even when I don’t recognise it. Mary Stevenson’s iconic poem Footprints in the Sand expresses it perfectly. I came to realise that God had been there all along, carrying me along the sand.
So when McFly recently announced their return and a new tour, I got to thinking: is it really so far-fetched to believe that God presented Himself to me in a way that He knew I could engage with at a certain point in my life? So what if it was through a pop band? He’s God!
In 1 Kings 19, when God reveals Himself to Elijah, He could have come as “a great and powerful wind”, “an earthquake” or “a fire”, but He didn’t – He came as “a gentle whisper”.
Sometimes God comes crashing into our lives in a divine spiritual awakening in the pews of a church, and sometimes He slips in quietly and unassumingly, in the most unexpected of places.
At the very least, McFly are a gift. I thank God for giving me that unequivocal support through some dark times and for showing me that even amidst all the horrors of our world, this kind of happiness exists. And He did it so discreetly. Looking back, I see Him in so many aspects of my life that I didn’t clock at the time; a lesson to not overlook quotidian things.
So, here’s a little challenge for you, if you’re willing to accept it: take a minute now and think about something that you really love, no matter how trivial. A person, place or thing. Think about how much joy it has given you up until now. And see, in all its glory, God’s face smiling back at you.