When What We Do Matters
I've been pouring myself into other work recently–a musical project I'll be telling you about soon. But for now suffice it to say that nearly all my writing has been in a $2 composition notebook–jotted thoughts that may or may not bob to the surface at a later date. But it's good to process a part of our lives in public. As I read books like–Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning or more recently Telling Secrets by Fredrich Beuchner I am reminded that I am grateful for the sometimes sharing–even oversharing–of others. In fact I find myself carrying a bit of weight on my shoulders–that in the past few months of unshared creation I am potentially shrugging responsibilities to my community.
I realize this all might sound very self-important but one of the values of the church community that we are a part of is that every person can contribute something of value to the body–but even more so they should contribute. And the rest of us carry the responsibility of listening well.
Also–if I degrade my life to a capital enterprise, my shareholders have invested far too much into my craft for me to tinker around on my own without bringing something into view. Again I think of, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." If I knew someone had recieved investments into the thousands of dollars over the past few years but felt reserved about presenting things because of some hang-up regarding being percieved as arrogant or self-important–I would think they were being self-centered for not sharing.
Oh artistic nerosis–I am grateful we aren't as buddy buddy as we used to be.
I've been watching war movies recently–a curious thing for a self-proclamed Jesus-doesn't-want-his-followers-to-use-violence type. I finished Band of Brothers and am currently halfway through it's sequel series The Pacific. To oversimplify, it's a story of a bunch of terrified men that keep running toward that terror. And of course heroism ensues. People volunteer for the most arduous tasks with little reward in sight.
Compare that with the fact that one of the most challening aspects of being a guitar teacher is getting students to practice. Scratch that–one of the most challening aspects of being a guitarist is getting myself to practice. I regularly fight off the question, "Why do this at all? Why does it even matter that you add yet another note into the mass of noise emerging from North America?"
I don't have a confident answer to that question. But I do suspect that the fact that I can go to Sweetwater Music and play a literal hundred different top end guitars and find room in my budget to take one home (to the chagrin of my wife) might be perpetuating my nerosis. What I mean is–men in war do drastic things because in the moment they are severely needed–there is a purpose to their work. I on the other hand can't practice easily because I frankly have a hard time believing at a gut level that my work is even remotely important.
I've heard before that Dwight Eisenhower's parents raised him with the notion that the world needed him desperately. Considering his era, I doubt this was a 'you're special' type of sentiment but rather a weight of responsibility that could at times even be considered a hindrance. We laugh now at the "everyone gets a trophy" sort of event–and I'm pretty sure all the uncool kids are wise to the joke–but that's because a trophy and a deep sense of purpose are two entirely different things.
Maybe that's why we glorify war. It is hard to tell someone that they aren't doing something significant when lives are on the line. When everyone elses life is affected by your smallest attention the smallest detail demands you to rise to the occasion.
But what does North America demand of me? Casual observation would suggest a mortgage, loyalty to an ideal paired with outrage about a few political issues, and a stuffed retirement fund. The church sometimes raises the bar–but the loudest voices often settle for political outrage–which is unfortunate as there are a lot of very selfless and kind people who are trying to follow Jesus the best they can, vividly aware of their own wounds as well as the wounds of those around them.
But in my rare moments of sanity I blink my eyes into focus and see the hard inglorious work of relationships, of reaching into broken worlds with my own broken hands, with my art, with my words, with my resources, with my ears, with my empathetic failure.
It is difficult work in itself–but it is good work when we can push past voices–either internal or external–that naysay. I've seen pastors do the good work in secret because of those who would mis-perceive. But I also understand the naysayers. Because courage often makes the observer insecure. We don't want to be caught with our pants down so we try to pants someone who is actually trying.
I'm giving less time to pantsing others and less attention to naysayers. It's not complete–to say I feel liberated would be overstatement. But freer is a good word–freer to embrace purpose as defined and guided by those who know me well and the one who knows me best. Freer to do the work rather than obsess over the work of others.