I was a weird kid. The only reason I use “was” is while I’m definitely still weird, I’m no longer a kid. When you’re a kid, everyone always asks you what you want to be when you grow up. All of the typical answers are baseball player, ballerina, doctor, astronaut…you know, all those jobs that seem really cool to little kids. In first grade, I remember my teacher at Creek View Elementary School, Mrs. Lovelady, asking everyone in class that very question. As she cycled around the class, everyone was giving those typical answers that you’d expect, then she got to me. I proudly proclaimed my desire, at the age of 6, to be a district attorney. I was a weird kid.
I always wanted to be a lawyer. I liked arguing, I liked talking, I had a keen interest in history and politics (yes, at 6) but, more than anything, I liked attention. And I didn’t just like having some attention, I liked being the center of attention. I loved the idea of standing in front of a courtroom and everyone watching me as I talked and argued about legal matters. As I got older, I would actually daydream occasionally about winning court cases. Let me reiterate, I was weird.
Obviously that’s not at all how my life turned out. I did spend the next several years with the same desire to be an attorney, all the way up until my senior year of high school. It was then that, with some nudging from my dad and my high school choir director, I reluctantly decided to give music a shot. In college, I fell in love with the idea of working in music and knew that’s what I supposed to do. Unfortunately, it was with the same mentality as wanting to be a lawyer…I fell in love with the idea of being the center of attention on the stage instead of in the courtroom.
By my junior year of college, I realized that I enjoyed performing and I liked having the attention, but I didn’t feel passionate about performing. I don’t typically like doing things “half-way” but I found myself perfectly content with it when it came to the stage. With some guidance from a couple of my professors, I came to realize my love for conducting. It was the end of my junior year and I didn’t really have any interest in doing music education so changing my major wasn’t an option at that point. Fortunately, I did land the opportunity to serve as an assistant conductor for one of the choirs.
I entered the field of conducting with the mentality of how much I was going to enjoy being, quite literally, the center of attention. I was going to get to make music with other people while being the focus of the rehearsal and the concert. In hindsight, I now see how I had slowly evolved from being a weird kid to being a weird jerk.
I entered graduate school with the same mentality; however, it was during graduate school that things began to change for me. For the first time, I started to truly appreciate working with others in a way that would give all of us glory. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted plenty of the attention, I was just more willing to share it with others. While this new appreciation began to develop inside of me, I got my first job as a church music director in Texas.
I don’t recall any “lightbulb moment” or epiphanies. There was just this steady evolution inside me over time as I worked with my choirs at school and worked with the minister and musicians at my church. Eventually I got to a place where I realized, “Hey, this isn’t about me.” What a concept to grasp.
I left that first church and got a job as the youth choir director at a church in Plano, TX. It was here that I really and truly learned what it meant to be a servant leader. I fell in love with the youth of that church. They helped me to discover this passion inside myself for seeing them grow closer to Christ. They helped me realize that it really isn’t about me, it isn’t even about them, it’s really all about our ability to glorify the One who created us, gave us life, and gives us breath.
It was during this time that I received what I consider to be the greatest compliment I could ever receive. One of the youth wrote me a letter and shared that they had struggled with their belief in God, even considering becoming an atheist at one point. They went on to tell me that during one of our nightly devotionals on choir tour, they were able to begin the reconciliation of their faith because they “could see and feel Christ through (my) teaching”. As I read the letter, it became one of THOSE moments. I was alone in my office as I read the letter and I was overcome with emotion and just began crying. It wasn’t about glorifying me, it wasn’t about praising me; I was just the vessel through which the message was being delivered, I became emotional because I realized the powerful effect we can have when we get out of God’s way and let Him use us and speak through us.
I’m not one for definitions. I like things being a little ambiguous, I like gray areas, and I love playing devils advocate. Despite all that, I have decided to define, from this point forward, what success is to me. You can take it or leave it. I have decided that as long as people see or feel Christ through interaction with me, my life can be counted as successful. It’s not how much money I make, what possessions I have, it’s not even about bringing hoards of people into the church or making people happy. If I can shine the light and life of Christ into this dark and dying world, then I have done what I am supposed to have done.
It’s a process. Don’t think that I have this all figured out and that I am now completely able to set my own ambitions, cares, concerns, etc. aside and always have that mindset. Some days are easier than others and some days I find myself unbelievably impatient and frustrated with God. Then there are the days where I stop and remember that it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about Him and what He has done for us. Soli Deo Gloria.