I pulled out the old hymnal from the bookshelf tonight and began to peruse the pages of my youth. It’s funny how I can still remember the page numbers that correspond to many of the songs we did in those days. It probably helps that my dad the music director deployed me to the church piano at the ripe old age of 12. I have to admit that while sitting in the pew, I zoned out on the hymns and had no idea what was meant by many of the words we sang, like “bulwark” and “ebenezer”, for example. When I migrated from the pew to the piano bench, my focus was redirected to chords, treble clefs, and arpeggios and as a result, I remained zoned out.
As I grew older, my taste for other music genres developed, in part, because the hymns of my youth grew stale to me. After all, we probably sang “At Calvary” no less than a 1000 times by the time I reached musical puberty! I was starved for something new and it didn’t take me long to develop a disdain for the old music. This blossomed into a pride that began to dictate how I viewed anything that was “old” or traditional. In time, I transferred this snobbery to church life. My religious background was steeped in legalism and I naturally rebelled to everything I had been taught. If ever a baby was thrown out with the bath water, this was it. I didn’t give it much credence because so much of it was laced with “dos and donts”. I began fostering a performance minded attitude as both a musician and a religious person. I worked very hard at creating the image I wanted people to see and I had enablers along the way.
But God has a way of cutting your legs out from under you, like the time I competed in a piano competition and took 2nd place to a kid who had been playing 5 or 6 years less than I had. It was the first time the illusion of my awesomeness fell flat in the desert sand. There would be many times thereafter that God would re-calibrate my assumptions about myself and about the traditions I was brought up in.
I was always religiously active, especially centering around music. I had firmly rooted my identity in it, and whenever anyone pushed back, I would go out of my way to make them pay a hefty price for challenging it. Eventually, I parlayed my reputation to a full time worship leader position which I used to embellish my image even more. I began to read alot, increasing my knowledge which puffed up my pride to Corinthian levels. Meanwhile, I was at war with my soul! I was leading two lives. The one everyone saw, and the one I was actually living.
As I mentioned, God has his ways of shifting the tides of our stormy lives, and one huge moment came in February of 2008 when I endured an extended period of depression. When you are in a period like this, you often don’t know why or how you got there. And worse, you don’t know how you will get out. But mercifully, God reveals these things with time. I know many factors contributed to the darkness I experienced. It was a combination of hidden sin, uncertainty of my future, and most of all, the imminent death of the identity I had spent a lifetime carving out for myself. Within a year, I was faced with an impending decision about my worship leader position and I sought counsel on the best way to navigate the treacherous waters. The advice I received was to come out of hiding, so to speak. I needed to be honest about where I was, theologically speaking, and openly acknowledge the incompatibility with the church I worked for and that my family had called home for 19 years. As a result, the decision was made for me and shortly thereafter we ended up at The Village Church. Losing my job was only the first shoe to drop. The second shoe was still double-laced to my stubborn foot. I will save that for the next blog post.