Thursday, October 16, 2008

The inner vocation of the singer

I was reading at Search the Sea yesterday, and amid the stark riches there, I found three nuggets that capture the thinking of three very wise guys (thanks, Gannet Girl, for your honesty; peace to you!). They became the basis last night’s choir devotion.

Know yourself.

Be yourself.

Give yourself.

The life of a person of faith demands that we try to live into all those ideas, and each is a pilgrimage of its own.

The first, the way of self-knowledge, is the beginning. It happens in the context of community and in the presence of God. It requires as much honesty as we can bear; in learning to truly know ourselves, we have to get quiet. We have to be strong enough to strip away all that is not real or true, like peeling away a bitter orange rind to get to the sweet fruit underneath. The context of loving community keeps us honest; the presence of God grants perspective; both are a comfort and a continual challenge, pushing us on to the second path: self-actualization.

If we think about that in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy, it’s about getting our basic needs met so that we can to move on to greater things. I think that’s certainly a piece of the puzzle, but if we are to get to the third path, there needs to be one more element included. We become fully ourselves in large part by striving and failing and learning and striving again. It makes me think of one more chunk of wisdom from Wise Guy #4:

It's not that easy, being green.
Kermit the Frog

New growth is tender and vulnerable and fresh. It takes courage to keep on becoming the people we are. But the risk in that process also means brings us to the understanding that we have something to offer…and perhaps also the courage to do so, which is what Jesus asks.

At some point, each of us stands for a time with two metaphorical “feet” on the ground of God, realizing that we are endowed with a purpose…a vocation. For us in this room, a part of that vocation is song.

A life of faith asks us to keep growing; the life of a singer does, as well. We have to understand what we’re good at, and what we need to work on. We must have the patience and quietude to see and hear clearly, and to listen intently. We have to tune in to the numinous, the transcendent. We need the courage to try new things, and to keep improving old ones…and we do all this in the context of a group of fellow-travelers who are striving for the same things, each of whom has a part to sing in the final offering. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own ego or comfort or preference for the good of the community.

We have to love this ephemeral thing into existence. And we have to trust that, once we do all that, what we’ve created will find ears that can hear it.

Sort of like discipleship, isn’t it? It requires everything of us—our full engagement in the work at hand. And we never really know which of the seeds we’ve tried to sow will come to fruition, or what our own final destination will be…except for this:

It all begins and ends in God.

Thanks be to God for real work in all its forms, and the many ways it teaches us to follow.


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I love the quotations. The first three blew me away.

And I have long wished that more lay people would think about what their vocation might be. The thinking comes naturally to ministers and artistic types, I think, but I believe there can be other vocations too, and people would find more meaning in their lives if they followed the process you discuss here.

FranIAm said...

Oh I agree with Ruth- those quotes!!!

And yes- I do a lot of work with folks around lay discernment and vocation.

There are many members, one body. We each bring gifts.

I think your post may work its way into my talks... thank you.

Jan said...

Quotes to live and ponder. Thank you for your thoughts. You often send me off, not letting go of this until God is through with me!

Turbo: said...

Loved this post!!! I copied the quotes to have at work!

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

And AMEN! The quotes, the message - thank you!

mompriest said...

This is a potent and powerful reflection. Thank you.