Jason Gray Speaks to the "Disordered" During this Coronavirus Pandemic

jason gray

Centricity Music recording artist Jason Gray releases today (March 20) Disorder, the second volume of his three-part album, Order Disorder Reorder. The six-song EP is available now at digital retail and streaming outlets globally through, and features the Top 25 Billboard AC Indicator chart hit single "Remind Me You're Here." 

Q: Jason, thanks for doing this interview with us. Congratulations on the release of your new EP "Disorder." This new EP is part of a trilogy of records. Tell us about this trilogy of music you are releasing?

I'm releasing a project called "Order Disorder Reorder" in three parts over the course of a year exploring the journey of transformation that so often takes us through those stages.

Order is where we are when what we want and expect to happen is happening. It's when we're more or less settled into the things we've learned in life thus far. Order is great! We spend a lot of time and energy trying to create order in our lives, as we should. But order can become a problem when we love it too much and make an idol out of it. We may unconsciously begin to protect our order from anything that would disrupt it, including new learning! So order becomes a problem when we stop learning anything new.

Cue disorder, the antidote to order. Disorder is when things fall apart, whether that's through a job loss, a relationship that breaks down, or even a global pandemic. Disorder turns our life upside down and reminds us that we aren't as in control as we thought, and our answers aren't as sufficient as we hoped. It can be painful and confusing, but it may drive us to cling to God in a way that we haven't in a while, and it can break us open enough so that new wisdom can get in.

And, of course, that's the beginning of reorder, where we come out the other side of our difficulties kinder, stronger, wiser, more whole and humble.

The story of Saul's journey to becoming the apostle Paul is a powerful order disorder reorder journey. He thought he knew everything he needed to know, to the point where he felt justified persecuting those who didn't believe the way that he did. Encountering Christ disordered his whole life and set him on a new path.

These ideas have been so helpful to me because they have helped me understand that when things are falling apart, it's not necessarily an evil. The difficulties in my life may be setting the stage for God's work of transformation in me. 

Understanding this has helped me panic less and trust more whenever the bottom has dropped out of my life. It gets me on the same page as God quicker, and replaces my anxiety with expectancy. So I wrote these songs hoping that these thoughts could be helpful to others, too.

Q: When you were planning this trilogy, did you even imagine that "Disorder" would be released in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?

Haha. Had it planned all along. Brilliant, right?

We set the release date for "Disorder" almost a year ago. It's crazy that a project so appropriately titled would release the very week a global pandemic was unfolding.

I'm glad for the timing of it, though I hoped people didn't think we were being opportunistic and releasing it when we did to capitalize on the current situation. Of course that's not the case--it's release was scheduled long before any of this.

Beyond the pandemic, though, this project is aspiring to help listeners navigate their own personal catastrophes by moving them toward acceptance of what's happening in their lives (instead of avoidance or panic) and working through their difficult and complicated feelings about it.

That old improv comedy rule of "yes, and" comes to mind. When the other actors on stage throw the story your way, you have to say "yes" to what is offered "and" then add your part to it. That's the only way to keep the act moving forward. "Yes, but" and of course "no" stops the scene dead in its tracks. But "yes, and" means you accept what has come to you and choose to build on it.

The metaphor is obvious: our best bet for surviving the storms of life is by moving from anxious avoidance to expectant acceptance. From there we can build on our circumstances, trusting that the storm is what God uses to make us stronger than the storm.

The importance of honesty--with God and with ourselves--in all of this is that it keeps the lines of intimacy open. Sometimes when we're in the storm we may feel angry with God, but maybe we don't feel like we're allowed to feel angry and so we stuff them down. When that happens, those feelings become the wall between us and God. I believe He prefers our honesty over our politeness and would want us to bring our hearts to him--whatever state it's in. I hope these songs help listeners have that kind of intimacy with God.

Q: What do these songs have to say about the current pandemic? 

These songs explore the emotional landscape of personal catastrophe and what it looks like to authentically work through all of that with God--with faith, doubt and, above all, honesty. I think many of the songs are very relevant to what we're all facing now with the pandemic, which even though is playing out on an international level is also playing out on a very personal level. The song "Through" strikes me as particularly relevant:

"I see the trouble standing before me

Like a mountain, it's like a mountain

My spirit trembles under its shadow

I can't escape it, Lord help me face it...

I need You to lead me through

...walking before me, behind and beside me

I'm following You

The only way out is if You lead me through."

Q: On this new EP, you have a duet with Blanca. How did you get to work with her?

Our paths have crossed over the years and I think she has such a remarkable voice! We were on a tight deadline and since she doesn't live in Nashville, I didn't think we could get her. But when we reached out to her we learned that she was going to be in town during the window of time we needed to record and so it all worked out perfect!

I couldn't be happier about it--she brings so much feeling to the song, doesn't she? And she's the kindest person. I feel really lucky that I got to work with her. She really took the song to a whole new level.

Q: Many of these songs come from a place of pain and brokenness. Did they come out of your own personal experiences? 

Yes, a lot of what I've learned about order disorder and reorder came from the experience of my own divorce and its fallout. It is a very painful chapter in my life.

But pain is universal. There isn't anything particularly special about my suffering. However, I've been blessed to have remarkable people in my life who have helped me authentically engage with my suffering, letting God lead me through it and be transformed by it. Richard Rohr says, "if we are not transformed by our pain, we will transmit it." With pain being a human universal, I can't think of anything better for me to do than help people in the same ways I've been helped. That's the aim of these songs.

This EP closes with a short little song called "Hard Times Prelude" and it's my favorite lyrical moment on the project:

"I was made in the hard times

That pain is a gold mine

It'll make a poor fool wise

It got real in the hard times

It hurt bad but I don't mind

That hurt'll make a heart kind..."

Those lines are pretty good summary of what this project is all about.

Q: As a musician, how has this pandemic, quarantine, and lockdown affected you and your family?

I live on my own at this time, my kids mostly being older now. But I did buy a Nintendo switch so that we can play games together remotely :-) I'm not really a gamer, but I've found that it's a good way to connect and that good conversation can come from it.

I'm also doing some long overdue reading and writing. And I'm watching a lot of arthouse films that are doing a good and deep work in me. I watched "Magnolia" last night, one of my top 3 favorite films of all time. It's rated R for good reason so I can't broadly recommend it, but I experience it as profoundly Christian in its themes. It really opened me up last night and instigated good conversation between me and the Holy Spirit. So there's a lot of that going on in my life right now, too.

I'm also doing a lot of FaceTime cowriting with other artists.

Q: What words of hope do you have for readers who are being "disordered" by what's happening to the world now?

Y'know, I think we spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid things that make us feel anxiety, pain, depression, etc. That's understandable!

And I'm not saying we should seek those feelings out and dive head first into them... but I am saying that when they rise to the surface and present themselves, there is an opportunity to poke around and see what is at the root of them.

We distract ourselves with so many things--and who can blame us? But we remain unhealed until we can get to the root of some of these wounds in our soul that manifest themselves as anxiety, pain, and depression.

For instance, here's an easy one that most of us have access to right now: provision. I'm anxious about paying my bills over the coming months.

But when that anxiety comes up, I get to have a conversation with it. I get to tell it that the economy is not my provider. God is my provider. I get to minister to that anxiety by reminding it of all the times God has provided for us in the past. Maybe some of that anxiety gets healed each time it comes up and I get to minister to it, right? 

But then it's even more useful to go deeper with it. Maybe when that anxiety comes up it opens up a way for me to get to the bottom of it.

Where does the anxiety come from? For me, when I dig deeper (instead of avoiding it or trying to shut it down) I discover that maybe I don't trust God the way that I think I do. And why is that? Poking around a bit more I uncover the fact that I have some unresolved disappointment and even some resentment with God.

These maladies are always there, like a cancer eating away at me. But when all is well and I've got paying dates on the calendar, they go unaddressed.

And the thing is, I can't really address them unless I have access to them, and I don't have access to them until something brings them to the surface. My tendency might be to avoid, manage, or medicate my anxiety when it surfaces. But if I can learn, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to take advantage of what my anxiety gives me access to when it rises up in me, then some real healing can happen.

This is true with other things, too. I'm already hearing about friends cooped up with their spouse who are experiencing marital conflict that they can no longer avoid. Good! Maybe they can find some healing before things get worse.

So I guess I'd say that we have a remarkable opportunity in this time to really dig into the "negative" emotions that might be surfacing in us and let the Lord lead us into some healing. I already feel it happening in me!

It's not for sissies. But it's better than the alternative. And God is in it and with us. 


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