A wide shot of a concert


Four Spiritual Laws from Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

Caleb Mathis

16 mins

Summer 2023 belongs to Tay-Tay — and it has not been a cruel one.

The Eras Tour, Taylor Swift’s first musical excursion since before the pandemic, is selling out stadiums and breaking records. It destroyed the Internet when tickets went on sale back in November, and by the time it wraps up next summer, it’s expected to make over $1 billion, claiming the title of the most successful tour in history (Sorry, Sir Elton.)

She recently came through my hometown, Cincinnati, and my wife and I got to attend. In a word, it was un-freaking-believable.

(I’ll be honest—when we got the tickets, I thought I was purchasing a gift for my wife—that I’d earn some husband points for tagging along. I was too “manly” to admit that Taylor’s music is pretty rad. Not anymore. I’m all in. But love her or leave her, there’s one thing we can all agree on: Taylor’s figured out the secret to success. There’s something here we can all chew on.)

In Cincinnati, a 45-song set list took us through nine of her albums. An immersive stage experience, which included multiple set changes and widely creative video components, complimented the music. A live backing band and dancers tore the roof off. And we were treated to over three hours of nonstop effort from the star of the show.

Taylor Swift Cincinnati Concert

But as the lavender haze of that night began to settle, it was the spiritual laws I bumped into along the way that are sticking with me.

I don’t claim to know where Taylor stands on faith, but I agree with Saint Augustine, who, a millennia ago, wrote that “All truth is God’s truth.”

At the Eras Tour, there was some major truth on display. And more than sore vocal cords, friendship bracelets, and a bucket list experience, these are the four lessons I’m taking away:

1) PAIN CAN BE THE PATH FORWARD (Or, “If You Never Bleed You’re Never Gonna Grow”)

While watching T. Swizzle work through a ten-minute break-up song, with a crowd of 65,000-strong singing along to every word, it became glaringly obvious: your pains don’t have to bury you. In fact, they just might be the path forward.

Listen, I’m not a super fan. My Swiftie status starts with her back-to-back alternative-folk albums folklore and evermore, released within five months of each other at the height of the pandemic.

If you can believe it (senior Swifties, put down the stones), I’d never listened to her 7x platinum album Red before the concert. So I hadn’t heard the extra-long breakup song, “All Too Well,” before all of Paycor Stadium started to sing along.

It was beautiful. It was incredibly sad. And it was almost uncomfortable. The degree to which she mines out her own personal life—especially her pain—and puts it on display for the world to see is incredibly brave (or an astute business move, depending on your level of cynicism. Personally, I’m going with option A on this one).

Unlike almost any other songwriter, Taylor has learned to turn heartache and difficulty into a power cell to push her life forward. Instead of an impediment to her progress, her sufferings become the raw material for paving the road she travels.

In a word: hurt doesn’t hold her back; it pushes her forward.

We all experience pain. We can instinctively hold it close to our chest, waiting for the throbbing to go away. Or we can look for the new muscles it’s growing.

Taylor turns her pain into songs. I’m sad to say, most days, I mostly turn mine into a sour disposition, short-fuse outbursts, and a toddler-esque that’s-not-fair outlook on life.

But God uses pain to change us—to grow us, even.

Paul, who experienced things much worse than I have (murder threats, being pummeled by a crowd, shipwrecked on an island, imprisoned for years at a time, and likely beheaded), found such purpose in his pains that could even “glory” in them.

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Without pain and suffering, we don’t develop hope, character, or perseverance.

Faith means believing, even when we can’t see it, that pain has purpose. That doesn’t mean God causes it all (he does have an active enemy, and last time I checked, we still live in an imperfect world), but he can redeem it all. At least, that’s what our main man Paul believed.

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Instead of complaining through the pain, it’s time I start looking for new growth.

That being said, there’s no pain like losing your favorite scarf. Come on, Jake, she’s been waiting like ten years.

2) VULNERABILITY IS A SUPERPOWER (Or, “I Don’t Wanna Keep Secrets Just To Keep You”)

This is a derivative of principle one, but important to call out separately.

Taylor’s incredibly creative, high-energy, and she can write a mean hook. But her real superpower, the thing that draws hoards of people to her shows and albums, is her vulnerability.

Listen to a Taylor Swift song, and you might find yourself humming along. But listen to an album, and you feel like you get to know her.

At the show, she quipped that her songs are “just pages torn from my diaries.” And we all soak it up like a sponge. Why? Because true vulnerability is incredibly attractive.

In a world completely driven by productivity, image, and social status, hearing someone honestly say, “I’ve got a lot going on at the moment” feels like a drink of cool water.

I wholeheartedly believe Jesus is God. That being said, one of the reasons I’m drawn to Him is his humanity. The Bible explains that in coming to earth, Jesus made himself vulnerable. He left his power, his safety, and his place of honor to join us. In that vulnerable state, He got mad, he felt pain, he cried, and he got hungry. And while we don’t have a record of it, he certainly laughed and spent time having fun with his friends too. He understands what life on Earth is like. He gets us.

It was precisely his vulnerability that caused his death—a vulnerability that he chose on our behalf. And it was this radically vulnerable and obedient act that caused God to amplify his name.

Last week, a good friend (who also happens to be a writer) was sharing how he’d recently been cautioned by people in his life not to be so forthcoming about his pains, hang-ups, and humanity in his writing.

“People are reading this,” he was told, “Are you sure you really want them all to know that?”

I was able to tell him I’d experienced the exact same thing. And, of course, the answer is always yes. Because, as our man Paul explains, God’s strength shines even brighter through weakness.

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

No one is looking for another perfectly curated life. The real ones, my true friends and family, want the real me.

Vulnerability is attractive in Messiahs, in pop stars, and, as it turns out, in us as well.

3) THE REWARDS GO TO THE RISK TAKERS (Or, “Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes.”)

From what I observed from section 308, row 3, seat 10, Taylor could have stood on the bare grass of Paycor Stadium with a ukulele, wearing a Target sundress, and the crowd would have still gone wild. They’d have still sung every word of every song. And the shows would’ve still sold out, night after night.

But that’s not what Taylor is doing. Even as one of the world’s most recognizable artists, she is pushing herself and her creative boundaries. And she’s reaping all the rewards because reward walks hand-in-hand with risk.

Among the risks that paid the highest dividends that Saturday night in Cincinnati—playing three songs, near the end of the set, that she’s literally never played live before. The crowd went nuts.

Or starting the show an hour early to avoid potential inclement weather. This could have backfired into frustrated fans, and yet I saw no sign of it. Even with the time change, I honestly couldn’t find an empty seat in the house.

Or, because of the time change, bringing out one of the opening acts who didn’t get a chance to perform… and dueting together. Singing a song you’d written, with Taylor Swift, during her show? Talk about a career changer for Gracie Abrams.

And then there’s this. Thankfully we avoided most of the rain in Cincinnati, but that video from a show in Nashville pretty much sells the point. Even in a downpour, Taylor’s performing like her whole career depends on it (even though we all know it doesn’t).

Why go to so much trouble? Why spend over a year of your life on the road, singing the same songs every weekend? Why put yourself in front of 60,000 fans and have to find the energy to burn night after night?

Because the rewards go to the risk-takers.

Again, our friend Paul, the early church planter, wholeheartedly agrees (I could see him in a T. Swift t-shirt).

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

It might seem odd to those of us who think God’s game is spreading fairness, but Paul paints him as a rewarder—and not the type that plays samesies. Those who get the best are those who chase after Him by faith.

Living by faith doesn’t mean never missing a Bible study, or praying for 30 minutes a day, or having the right theological thoughts in your mind. Living by faith means risking it on God.

Run through any Biblical hero that comes to mind. The ones who reaped the most rewards are the ones who risked the most.

Abraham became the father of God’s people because he dared to leave his homeland and move to a place he’d never seen, believing even in his old age that God would give him a son.

Moses left behind the comfort of an easy life as a prince of Egypt to take his rightful place with the Israelites, seeing God move in miraculous ways to rescue them from slavery.

Joshua and Caleb believed that God would fight for his people to give them their Promised Land, while all the other Israelite scouts cowered at the challenge—and they became the only two people from that generation to see the land of Promise.

Esther took her own life in her hands when she approached the king of Persia unannounced, but her bravery saved her people from genocide. Thousands of years later, it’s still celebrated each year during the Jewish festival of Purim.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. A life of faith isn’t one of safety. It’s choosing to take the risk because we believe in a God who rewards.

This hits home for me. I’m feeling God stretching me for new risks, and the part of me that likes safety and security wants to push against that. But at the same time, I want a life that’s remarkable, one that ripples out for generations, one filled with rewards. If that’s the case, I have to walk by faith… and that means taking risks.

Somehow, I have Saint Swift to thank for teaching me that.

4) HARD WORK NOW, WORLD TOUR LATER (Or, “I’ve Never Been a Natural, All I Do Is Try, Try, Try.”)

Before the Eras Tour kicked off in March of this year, the last time Taylor played a tour show was November 2018—that’s a span of nearly 4.5 years.

That doesn’t mean she didn’t want to. Just like it did to all of us, a worldwide pandemic sideswiped her plans for a tour in 2020. But while the rest of us were binge-watching Tiger King, hoarding toilet paper, and getting in fights on the Internet, Taylor was doing what she does best—making music. And lots of it.

Since that final tour date in 2018, Taylor’s released four albums of new music and three complete re-recordings of previously released music. That’s seven albums in 4.5 years—one less than all of Led Zeppelin’s studio albums over their entire career. It boggles the mind.

For me, this shows uncanny vision, work ethic, and hope for the future. But most of all, it speaks to the reality of how anything great gets accomplished: in inches.

American novelist Louis L’Amour could have been speaking about Taylor when he said, “Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”

I hate to admit it, but I’ll try to practice some vulnerability: I generally have the vision of a gnat. If a new plan doesn’t go perfectly after the first attempt, I assume something must be wrong with it. If it gets difficult in step two, I’m tempted to rethink everything. If a piece of writing doesn’t get recognition upon publication, it must have been a dud.

The writer of Hebrews has something to say to me:

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

You won’t finish a race if you quit in the first mile. You’ll never see the finish line if you stop when the shin splints start. You can’t measure your success in a race against the speed of others, or you’ll end up on another’s course.

Run with perseverance the race marked out for who? For us. I have a race I’m called to run. It’s not Taylor’s, Louis L’Amour’s, or even yours. And if I’m going to make it to the finish line, I can’t afford to get sidelined by discomfort or disillusionment. I must run with perseverance, inch after inch, until I’ve covered the entire course.

In fact, in this musical output, I can see the other three spiritual laws coming into play. The pain of lockdowns and having tours canceled wasn’t a red light for Taylor’s creativity but a green one. With the world around her consuming, she ramped up the vulnerability and created. Even with an uncertain future, she released album after album, not knowing when (or if) she’d ever get to play the songs live.

It was all a risk, but as we said, that’s where the rewards are—and the Eras Tour is just the latest example of what’s likely to be a long list in Taylor’s career.

If I want that to be true of me—to be a rare success that vulnerably risks my way forward through pain—I can’t stop when it gets uncomfortable.

Got space for one more zinger from our favorite missionary, Paul?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

Taylor Swift Cincinnati Concert

How do I know that I’ll run in such a way as to get the prize? It’s the training, day in and day out, before the race begins.

There’s no thunderous applause for putting in the reps and hard work that transform a life. There’s no recognition for developing new habits of training and committing to them. There’s no glory for the personal choices you make that push you forward.
And… there’s no world tour without them.

Put in the reps. Compete to win the prize. Don’t jump ship when the success isn’t immediate.

The path to the finish line is hard work today, hard work tomorrow, and hard work the day after, no matter if your goal is a thriving marriage, developing a new business, launching a podcast, or touring the world.

I’m going to apply these four spiritual laws—which were God’s well before they were Taylor’s, anyway—to my own life. I invite you to do the same. I believe if we both do that, a new day will begin to break. Just like the turning of the clock from 11:59 PM to 12:00 AM, we may not recognize it immediately, but a change will be occurring. Even when it’s dark, new days always begin at midnight.

So keep persevering. Keep practicing vulnerability. Keep risking, and keep putting in the hard work. I’ll do the same. And I’ll meet you at midnight.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

Caleb Mathis
Meet the author

Caleb Mathis

Dad of three, husband of one, pastor at Crossroads, and at the moment would rather be reading Tolkien, watching British TV, or in a pub with a pint of Guinness.

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