2 Old Shoes (part 2)

I don’t think words in a blog post can properly convey how much I longed to be a worship leader. It was the year 2000 when i realized for the first time that this could be a job that I loved. We had been part of the same church for 11 years and the worship leader at the time left and I felt like this was something I would pursue. Alas, the timing wasn’t right, and the church moved on with someone else. For another 4 years, I burned with a passion to lead worship and actually sent my resume (sparse as it was) to some churches to no avail. Then my opportunity came when the worship leader at the time unexpectedly resigned. My time had come! On my first day of the job, I hit the ground running and I threw myself into the job. I loved going in to work every morning and I honestly didn’t want to leave. I was finally getting the chance to really use my musical gifts and get paid to do it.  It wasn’t a job that made you rich financially, but I didn’t care. I absolutely loved what I got to do everyday, planning worship services, talking theology with the other guys on staff, mentoring young musicians, just everything about it.  

One of my friends on staff used to always talk about this book by John Piper called “Don’t waste your life” and I was mildly interested at the time.  I was reading an author by the name of Dallas Willard, a Christian philosopher, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but it was in reading his works that I started to develop ways of thinking beyond the box of evangelical cliches that I had grown up around.  Reading Willard spurred me on to think deeply about what biblical Christianity was. He passed away about a year ago, and I thank God for him.  Meanwhile, my friend kept bringing up Piper and this other guy he listened to via podcast, which was a new technological phenomena at the time. This other guy was Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Highland Village. You remember from my last post that we are members there, but it’s an interesting journey how we got there. I remember listening to Chandler at my friend’s bequest and actually finding him sort of obnoxious and over the top. The depth of his vocal tone was like Howard Stern, and he seemed to be equally shocking in his content.  This guy was preaching, I mean preaching!  Looking back, I realize how far removed I was from hearing this kind of bold presentation, especially the last few years I worked in the church. I gave him a few listens and just basically wrote it off and went back to reading Willard. 

Around the same time, I was starting to podcast John Piper. I was too busy swimming in the philosophical waters of Willard that I didn’t have time to read Piper. So I listened to his sermons. I was a little put off by his style which reminded me of “old timey” preachers, but in spite of that, I couldn’t dismiss the weightiness of the Word he was preaching, especially when it came to the Sovereignty of God. While all this is going on, I began reading a blog written by an old school friend. This friend was actually the son of a teacher I had in high school who I was basically in awe of and had the deepest respect and admiration for. It seems he was the only one who could ever get me to study and in turn aim to please the teacher.  As a high schooler, I knew this teacher was a Calvinist and I was fascinated to hear him talk about it.  My earliest exposure to Calvinism was a younger child when my parents told me about it. But all I really knew about it was pre-destination, which is pretty much the extent of what every non-calvinist a.k.a Arminian knows about it.  So I began to comment on his blog (my teacher’s son) who was a Calvinist himself and it’s during this period of time that I began to learn of Reformed Theology. I was being bombarded from all sides, blogs, sermons, books, and let me tell you, I argued with him constantly through the comments I made on his posts. But there was something always gnawing at my soul in the debates with him. I was fighting a losing battle because I was trying to argue against something I knew was true. The truth that God is totally Sovereign over everything and does as pleases, and that what ever pleases him is just, right, and true. I began to see that Calvinism or Reformed Theology was not as minimalistic as the TULIP acronym it’s known for, and that there was more at stake than the doctrine of predestination. It was much bigger. We’re talking the Glory of God kind of big.

A friend of mine chided me the other day about being too theological and said that a theologian is something one becomes after he’s saved and the implication was we don’t need theology to become a Christian. As I replied to him, “everyone’s a theologian” in the strictest meaning of the word, and your theology is a determining factor to you becoming saved in the first place, outside of God’s sovereign grace of course. 

Becoming Reformed in my theology wasn’t instantaneous for me.  It was actually the blooming of a seed that was planted in my heart decades earlier. It was no longer synonymous with fancy theological terms like depravity and perseverance of the saints. No, for the first time, I began connecting this theological system to something more familiar to my brain.  The Gospel. 

 

Identity

4671-tree-water It's been 2 years since I stepped down as worship leader of our last church and I have to say it's been the absolute best thing God has done in our lives.  God has revealed the idols in my heart and needless to say is chipping them away.  It is indeed a slow and painful process because I put a lot of years of hard work in to building them.  John Calvin gets credit for one of the best observations ever made in post canon theology. He said, "The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother's womb, expert in inventing idols."

The idols I have created are far too many to name, but I will let you in on one of them.  One of my biggest idols has been identity seeking. Before I was in ministry, I developed a pattern of moving from job to job.  I would be content for 2 or 3 years until I realized it wasn't fulfilling enough.  Instead of sticking it out and enduring the trials I was facing which usually centered around my relationships with superiors, I opted for lateral movement hoping something would click inside and I would settle down.  After being laid off from a company after 8 years of employ, I bounced around some more all the while thinking that my musical gifts had to be the ticket to escaping this volatile existence.  I thought that once I became a vocational worship leader that my heart would be filled, that my identity would be fulfilled. Many good folks along the way were enablers to maintaining the sheen of this idol.  Anytime someone complimented something I did or a song I performed, my idol was being polished. It wasn't their intent, but I was more than willing to let them.  I wish I could say my motivation behind serving in the church has always been to lead people to Christ, but mostly it has been done to lead people to myself. 

As a worship leader, I soon realized the frustration in securing my idenity through my career.  The biggest problem in finding your identity in anything other than Christ is that there is always opposition. There is no clear path to finding yourself in this world or anything in this world apart from Jesus.  You discover the opposition comes from other identity seekers like the people you work with and those you work for. The evolutionary theory almost seems plausible as the larger egos win out in a spiritual survivor of the fittest. 

I struggled mightily behind the scenes trying to reconcile my identity with the self-image I created. Thankfully the fork in the road arrived prior to the breaking point. Through wise counsel, I took the honest path which seemed to lead through the forest of uncertainty, while the disingenious path looked clear and comfortable. Now, here I am 2 years later and not where I expected to be. In fact, I would have fought this path tooth and nail 5 years ago.

Someone asked me recently if I enjoyed my job.  I told him that I don't enjoy what I do,  but I have more joy in the midst of what I'm doing if that makes any sense.  I want a life like that tree in Psalms, the one planted by the stream.  Though it's leaves wither, the tree never dies. It flourishes in all seasons. That's my desire, to not only weather the conditions of each seasonal turn, but to flourish in fruit-bearing joy. That is the identiy I long for.