We finished up the rehearsal and prepared to go home. As one of the other guys and I talked over some logistical details, the young man came over to stand beside me. “I wonder if we could think about doing a few things differently,” he suggested. The voice inside me screamed, “You think you can tell me anything, kid?”, but what came out was, “What do you have in mind?” A few well-reasoned suggestions later, he left to go back to his university campus; back to his classes and theories, and his youthful certainties of how things work. I drove home, wondering if I am getting too old, too set in my ways, and too behind the times, to continue exercising my perceived gifts. I spent the rest of the day in a dark mood, or “brown study” as Arthur Conan Doyle would have put it in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
I use the term “brown study” because I don’t want you to think that I was just in a bad mood (although I was that). Even though I am given to such mood swings, the one redeeming feature of the lows is that I actually tend, nowadays, to consider the cause and potential cure for the malaise in which I find myself. In some ways, the progression from disappointment to resolution actually is positive, leaving me with a sense of purpose and a determination to improve. Of course, sometimes the process leaves me thinking that I am not up to the task, but that comes into the discussion a little later.
On this occasion, I found myself looking at the suggestions the young man had made, first getting past my objections, then considering the benefits of the actions he outlined. Some of the theoretical ideas won’t work in the real world in which I function, so they can be put aside. But it is not advisable at any time to throw the baby out with the bath water, so I am still working through the ideas which we can use. One thing that I have learned (and have had underscored in experiences of the last few weeks) is that I must listen to communicate. This is an opportunity for me to do just that. I’ll just have to keep working my way though that minefield.
I know this is a little boring (or maybe extremely so), but I hope you’ll stick with me for a few moments longer. After spending a good deal of the evening in thought, I went to bed, still not necessarily looking forward to actually leading the group today. Then last night, we moved our clocks forward in anticipation of the change to Daylight Saving Time. An hour lost! Ah well, it was just one more straw on the camel’s back. No need for worry. The morning would be bright and all this would be behind me.
I’d like to tell you that today was a picnic, with everything falling into place. That would be untruthful. To start the ball rolling, as the clock buzzed stridently this morning, I rolled over to see the sky pouring rain. Grumbling, I got out of bed, only to be hit with a dizzy spell, the first one in over a year. I held on for dear life to a nearby chest of drawers until it passed. Practice and the Worship Service are a blur. I do remember that the people in the church participated and were moved to worship; a bright spot in an otherwise dark day for me. The headache which trailed behind the dizziness was overpowering, but still there were miles to go. News that a relative has been diagnosed with cancer came right before the Lovely Lady’s mom had to be brought in from the car in the pouring rain, an umbrella held over her while I got soaked holding it. Dinner for thirteen, with all the bedlam that accompanies it, and still the cleanup would follow. As the Lovely Lady left to take her mom home, I thought seriously about dropping out right then. The stack of dishes, with the remnants of dinner stuck to every piece, was more than I could face. “Message to God: I quit! You’ll have to take this work and finish it without me.” Then the truth hit me.
It was almost like a light coming on. The problem is, I’ve seen this light before. It burns dimly, like most of the truths we experience in daily life. No brilliant light, turning the “darkness to dawning and the dawning to noonday bright”, as the old hymn describes. This is just an everyday, ordinary truth that guides us through the darkness we stumble in. The realization that the job of cleaning up the dinner mess would only be completed when the work is done is obvious to most of us. But to a basically lazy person like me, it’s not the answer I crave. I always want the easy way out. But the truth is universal. Placing one foot in front of the other, one tired step at a time, we go through. And, not coincidentally, this is not a punishment. It’s a blessing, teaching us perseverance, helping us to grow up, making us stronger for the next event we have to face. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but you need to be aware that all of our lives on this planet will be spent going through. Not over, not around, but through.
So what does getting the dishes cleaned have to do with leading worship? Funny you should ask. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about quitting the job of leading worship. “I don’t have the time.” “It’s outside my comfort zone.” “Others are more qualified.” All the excuses are true. But, for right now and at this place in my life, just like the after-dinner cleanup, this is what has been put in front of me. I’m going through. I’ll listen, I’ll grow, I’ll even do things in ways I’ve never done them before. My hair may be gray before I’m finished. I may even pull out a bit of it. But the feet are moving and the resolve is set.
How about you? Do you have a mountain in front of you that you wish would disappear? Or, just a path leading into the unexplored wilds where you’ve never ventured before? Take it from a perpetual procrastinator. It doesn’t go away if you wait long enough. Try putting one foot in front of you. That didn’t hurt much, did it? Try it again.
Now, you’ve got the idea. Through. It’s not only the method by which we complete the tasks in front of us, it’s also the word we use to exult when we have finished.
“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
(Hebrews 12:1 NLT)
“Heights by great men reached and kept
Were not obtained by sudden flight.
But, while their companions slept,
They were toiling upward in the night.”
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow~American poet~1807-1882)