The mother views her son with empathetic disappointment. “But honey,” she replies. “You can’t do both.”
I think I have the weirdest job in the world. But I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I get to play music for a living. Of course, it’s far more complicated than that. Armed with degrees in engineering and business but tainted with a somewhat-ingrained proclivity for contrarianism, I ended up becoming a musician and creative arts pastor.
In twenty two years of full-time ministry, I’ve written a file drawer full of drama scripts, designed dozens of Christmas and Easter programs, charted for horns, strings, and choirs, produced and scored for video, acted in sketches, ran a project recording studio, led seniors in convalescent homes singing old hymns. I’ve painted scenery flats, designed posters and flyers, cartooned, written short stories, produced a weekly radio program, accompanied for dance, taught and lectured, set up an art gallery. I’ve authored books, released albums, keynoted at conferences, dressed up in a gorilla suit. I’ve played the Star Spangled Banner for the Fourth of July, sung “Apples and Bananas” for preschool classes, and been tipped to play “Piano Man” more times than I care to admit. I’ve hung from catwalks, crawled under stages, worked on construction sites, carted tens of thousands of cumulative pounds of PA equipment, and opened for a lot of people who have come and gone.
There’s the other side too. The spiritual, pastoral side. I’ve prayed with lots of families in lots of hospital rooms. I’ve encouraged and assisted a lot of young aspiring artists to go do it, whatever that it is. I’ve looked across the table at faces who were in the midst of terrible crises or profound grief. I’ve played far too many funerals, but also been privileged to play lots of weddings too. I’ve been around the world many times on missions trips—Germany, the Philippines, Equador, the Bahamas, Italy, Idaho. I’ve done life with so many incredible people. I’ve sat at the piano in the midst of corporate worship when the smile of God would suddenly overwhelm me. So many sacred moments.
I was reflecting on all of this lately when I came across a chapter from Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. This is what she has to say about calling:
“When God calls, it is a very big deal. It is holy ground. It produces within us such reverence and awe that it is hard to know what to do with ourselves. Finally the whole of our life begins to make sense, and new awareness of the divine orchestration that has brought us to this moment makes us want to take off our shoes or fall on our face or maybe even argue with God about the improbability of it all. But no matter how much we may want to resist, the landscape of our life has opened up.”
People have asked me before, how do I know if I am being called to do this? It could be a job offer or a relocation or a missions trip or a ministry opportunity. And though I can’t definitively answer their question, I do believe Barton’s observations are generally true: My life began to really make sense when I entered the calling that God had for me. And ever since, I have repeatedly seen the divine orchestration that stirs and guides and confirms my life trajectory.
As I said, I have the weirdest job in the world. And it was in the convergence of my talents and passions and dreams and experiences, as well as in my fears and inadequacies and naivete, that I found my calling.
It’s my hope that one day—when God knocks at your door—you can say the same as well.