The problem of being, perhaps for the first time in your life, clearly aware of that sense of calling that surrounds us all, is that — well, you may be even more confused than you were before. Honestly, that is what has happened to me.
At first, I thought — sweeping change is in order. Give up opera, focus on sacred music, work on musical outreach, maybe even consider switching from my DMA program to a seminary program, dare I say it — seek ordination? All of these possibilities and imperitaves ran through my mind, the detective-investigator persona of my personality kicked into high research mode, my fingers flew across the keyboard as I Googled and Yahooed! frantically, and the book reading began.
And then three things happened. First, I encountered a tiny, intense book by author Os Guiness — Rising to the Call, and it told me that acknowledging the presence of God’s call in your life didn’t mean, necessarily, throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And I could feel and see the truth of that statement. Second, shortly after I devoured Mr. Guiness’s book, my voice teacher sat me down and said, look, what does singing mean to you (this, after a particularly stunning lesson in which some technique changes had opened my voice up even more). In answer to that question, I gave the standard singer’s answer and said “Everything”, which is not really true in the way most singers mean it. What I meant to say is that, at this time in my life, my voice is the most clear, most true expression that I can find of the fabric of faith that exists in my soul.
Those two events, combined, made my brain say “Maybe I’m not supposed to give up on opera and the opera world.” And I shuddered at the thought, and I once again became afraid to attempt any forward motion or change, and my depression set in again.
And in the midst of all this came a third event. Ah yes, the third event: my involvement in a project that I had believed was one of those gifts along the way that say “yes, you are on the right path, you are listening and acting on what you hear, you are stepping out in faith without needing to know” — that project became a crazed, chaotic mess that mostly served on a daily basis to revive and display old, painful demons in my life, feelings I thought long resolved and released. It became a project that reminded me all of the reasons that I could not continue to pursue a career in the operatic world. And in that reminder, I felt shame and a sense of failure — how could I have not seen, how could I have not known that this was an old path, not a new one?
Maybe its Lent — maybe that’s the reason, but it seems that there are old demons and old attitudes everywhere I turn. Situations and fears that I thought I had laid to rest, suddenly again before me. But in the demons, I think I see God’s reminders, like painted lines on a highway, reminders that answering the call means putting aside the things of ego that lead to fear and exclusion, the need to be wanted, the need to be praised, the need…well, of anything.
And then, another reminder came to point the way — the latest post on my favorite blog, Talk with the Preacher — a reminder that the call is a call to inclusion and love, not a call to protectiveness and exclusion, and that church is a verb, not a building. And after that, I started to find different questions to ponder: do I have the strength to walk as who I am in the wilderness (which for me, sadly, is the world of professional and semi-professional opera), to be who I am in the face of demons, and to know that the demons, no matter how old or how frightening, that they have no power as long as I remember who I am, truly, and why I am here.
So, I may be working on a project with people I find incompatible, and it may not be going the way I would want it to go, but maybe there is a reason that I am there. And maybe I will learn lessons that will help me make better choices in the future, but I cannot define making better choices as choosing only to work with people who are on a similar path or with people that I find spiritually compatible or just generally compatible. Why should I think that responding to the genuine sense of call in my life should be comfortable or safe? As I re-read the Frederick Buechner quote my pastor gave me, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet,” I find no promise of peace or ease except the promise of a sense of purpose that comes from fulfilling my reason to be, and the opportunity to see the next right action to take.
So, maybe I was listening after all. Thank you God, for the reminders.