A year ago today, I was licensed to the Gospel Ministry at the Calvary Baptist Church. As a member of my committee (and someone whose grace and spirit I admire so deeply) said to me immediately afterward, in the grips of a welcome hug, “So, do you feel the weight of the Gospel call on your life yet?” At the time, I probably thought that I did — I certainly understood the solemnity of the choice that I had just made, the gravity of standing in front of my community and declaring it, the responsibility involved in asking for their confirmation of my call and the duty I had in living to that call and those talents.
But my friend and mentor was right — I could not possibly have understood the weight of that call on my life or the changes that it would evoke in my living and my perceptions as I moved on from that moment. Truly, I have come to accept that the action of that call to follow is one of those things that we, as mere mortals, can only see through a glass darkly — and perhaps that is a very good thing.
For the past few weeks, I have been feeling very much like it was year wasted: full of fits and starts, full of trying things and failing, full of no’s, not yes’s. I have been feeling like I didn’t do a very good job of responding to the tug of this call on my life, and that my ears have been stopped with cotton, rather than open to listening. I was feeling like that prodigal son who squandered everything .
But this morning, everything is different. I don’t know truly what it was that finally restored (or perhaps expanded) my perspective, whether it was standing pretty much still all last week or a great and loving conversation with a wonderful, wise friend, or the opportunity to sing paraphrases of the great text in John 14 in service yesterday, or a good night’s sleep, or the arrival of this anniversary, or well, all those things–but everything is, at least, temporarily clear and snapped into place.
I did not waste this last year. I learned many, many things, about myself and about living. And, I did live in respect to the call of the Gospel on my life. And I have done my best to live the action of that call so that all who wished to look might see. And I have come to understand that what may look like a fault to the world is sometimes a talent of the spirit. In the language of an eloquent and faith-filled friend, my perspective (at least today) has switched from the language of the realm to the language of the soul.
Do you know what one of my best talents is? I’m not afraid to try new things. And, I’m not afraid to withdraw when that thing is not right. And my sense of discernment is greatly improved — no longer does it take years of time and effort for me to see the mismatch or the mis-step. I know really quickly (the last time, within 24 hours); and I am no longer afraid to take immediate steps to correct my course. And I am not afraid to dialog about why it wasn’t a fit when it originally seemed to be. And, after a course correction that to many might look like a a complete reversal, I am not afraid to walk on and take up the next thing thrown in my path. A week ago, I did not see these qualities as talents or gifts; but I do today. The world might call this flaky behavior (after all, what about my five year plan?), irrational. Today, I know differently.
One constant through this whole year has been the place of music in my life, my knowing the importance of music as a language for teaching and communicating. Another constant — the importance of my faith and my faith community. And all my digging and scurrying about and trying things this year has just served to reveal blockages and attitudes that I didn’t even know were there, things that have clouded and limited my ability to use and honor the things that I do know.
Am I any closer to the answers that I sought so energetically in this past year? If you had asked me that question few days ago, I probably would have said no, not really. But today, I have a different answer — yes, I am much closer. Why? Because I now know to stop trying so hard.
What else do I know today, that I did not know a year ago? I know that hearing the Gospel call was not, for me, a sudden event that meant throwing away all that I was and had created and learned to start over — instead,it is an every day, every minute part of my living; it was the cumulation of talents and tasks and experience that led me to finally hear the song of the universe. It is the call to use everything that I am in the service of my God and my fellow man. And that doing that might not look like I think that it should look. Living the call is a change in my knowing, not necessarily in my doing.
On this anniversary day, I’m going to make another pledge: for the next year, I’m going to stop looking for the best way to live out my calling and use my talents. I’m going to live, I’m going to sing, I’m going to read and write and think and share, like I always have and like I probably always will. I’m going to stop looking for a new hat to wear and wear the one I already have. And, oh, yes, I ‘m going to work in my garden. I’m going to be my calling, I’m going to be my life, I’m going to be one I was made to be, because, well, I already am. And I am going to be grateful for every blessing that comes along the way…
So, dear friend with the probing question, I would tell you (if either of us ever had time to have lunch), that I am indeed more aware of the weight of this call on my life today than I was that day a year ago. I have probably spent too much time over the last year thinking that the weight would lessen if I could just find the right mode of expression, the right job, the right title, the right function, but I’m going to devote less energy to that in these months ahead. I now know that the weight and the urgency will only gain in strength, but that no job title nor project nor worldly expression will change that, and that truth be told, I want to feel that weight. It drives me forward and inward simultaneously, and it opens me to a world of beauty and of pain all around me. And, feeling that weight, is, well, who I am.
Thank you to everyone who has journeyed with me this past year. Here we go again….