Let me tell you about bad blood.

In case you missed it (or you’re just not quite as obsessed with Taylor Swift as me) – the music video for Taylor’s latest single will be premiered in just over a week at the Billboard Music Awards on May 17.  The song is called Bad Blood, and of course to celebrate this spectacular news, I had to listen to the track twenty-seven times in a row yesterday and today.  It stuck in my head after awhile, and I realized what an ever-present theme bad blood is in my life.  If you’re interested (or just not quite as obsessed with 1989 as me) here’s what Taylor has to say about the track, as quoted in Rolling Stone‘s September cover story.

The angriest song on 1989 is called “Bad Blood,” and it’s about another female artist Swift declines to name. “For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not,” she says. “She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?'” Then last year, the other star crossed a line. “She did something so horrible,” Swift says. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’ And it wasn’t even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational – you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It’s awkward, and I don’t like it.”

“Sometimes the lines in a song are lines you wish you could text-message somebody in real life,” she says. “I would just be constantly writing all these zingers – like, ‘Burn. That would really get her.’ And I know people are going to obsess over who it’s about, because they think they have all my relationships mapped out. But there’s a reason there are not any overt call-outs in that song. My intent was not to create some gossip-fest. I wanted people to apply it to a situation where they felt betrayed in their own lives.”

Since 1989 first came out, this has been one of my favorite songs on the album.  Just like Taylor says, we’ve all felt betrayed in our own lives, and this puts words to that feeling quite nicely (with just the right amount of sass and pounding drumbeats).  Like I’ve said before, I tend to frame my thoughts in terms of music.  And there’s been quite a few times in the last year – and in life in general – that I’ve had bad blood with someone, that I’ve wanted to scream the words of this song, that I wanted them to know how much hurt they’d really caused.

Last month, I got to hear from my dear friend Emmie (please, please check out her wonderful blog!) about an incredibly trying situation she’s been through this year that could have left her with plenty of bad blood, and how she’s made it through to the other side by forgiveness.  As I listened to her overflow with joy in the freedom she had found by forgiving the people who had hurt her so deeply, I was awestruck, intrigued and a little bit envious.  One thing she said several times stuck with me: that for the first time in her life, she carried none of her grudges.  By forgiving the people in her life who were the hardest to reconcile with, she was freed from all of the frustrations with others she’d carried in the past.  The first thing I thought was I want that kind of freedom.

It’s a good thing that isn’t the end of the story, because I had no idea how to get rid of something in my life as momentous as a grudge.  Bad blood is a very human emotion – as many of us say, I’ll forgive but I won’t forget.  I have consistently hid hatred, fear and distrust under the guise of protecting myself, and used this as a reason to push others away, and share their shortcomings and sins with the world (that’s called gossip, people).  I had no idea what this freedom Emmie spoke of felt like, because I had rarely tried to forgive a person instead of an action.

But as I asked Emmie how she had come to this turning point, she looked at me and said, “How good is it that we don’t have to decide who to love, because Jesus already decided everyone is deserving of love when He died for the world’s sins?”  WOW.  The same powerful explanation goes for forgiveness – we don’t have to choose what actions of others deserve to be forgiven, because Jesus has already opened the door for every single person in our lives and on this earth to receive forgiveness.  Understanding this truth has been taking me weeks of prayer, but it stuck in my head.

At ISU Drum Major Clinic my senior year of high school, our leadership instructor talked about love and fear.  His best piece of advice was “Don’t give it shame, give it love” – to any problem, person, or stress.  Forgiveness has never been an easy topic for me to dwell on, because I know I don’t do it well.  I gave it shame – I was constantly both guilty about and defensive of the way I treated others I felt I had bad blood with, the way I talked about them, and the way I perceived them.  At the same time, I placed the shame and blame on them and their actions to justify my own behavior.

Last week at Midtown, Randy mentioned how the way of the world is to fill up with love like a reservoir.  This just doesn’t work with Christ’s love – but when we try it anyway, we find ourselves stuck with bad blood and a stagnant source of life.  The way of the Spirit, on the other hand, is to fill up with love like a river – constantly fed, and constantly called to be moving, to pour out.  It’s human nature to place shame on others and ourselves, but when I turn to Christ’s love instead, not only is there the power of forgiveness pouring out of the love I receive, but there is the complete freedom that Emmie spoke of!  It’s a learning process, but a beautiful one at that.

So let’s throw it back to the name of this blog.  When I started writing last December, I was harboring a whole lot of bad blood, and looking to define myself as a new romantic moving forward – falling back in love with my life and my Lord.  Part of being a new romantic is being a new creation.  The most important thing about being a new creation is that I am defined by Christ, not by the world.  This means that the blood in my veins is no longer bad blood – this means I am a river, not a reservoir.  This means I can find forgiveness, and in turn, forgive, and this means I have freedom.

Don’t worry – when that music video airs on May 17, I’m still going to dance like crazy and yell every word.  It’s the story of a situation, but not the story of my life – and I think Taylor would approve.

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