Last Tuesday, Ed Cyzewski wrote a post about the worst job in ministry, that of the worship leader.
I mostly sat there crying while I read it. Because, yeah. The thing that made me most want to leave Christianity wasn’t my husband coming out as an atheist. It wasn’t wrestling through the issue of homosexuality.
It was having my musical gifts rejected.
As a music major in college, I was accustomed to dealing with critiques. You learn to accept constructive feedback on technique. You learn what pieces best show off your strengths while allowing you to learn more about the craft of performing. If you’re lucky, you learn the difference between a juried piece and something that you’re just playing for fun. You live and breathe music, and it pays off when that scary music theory professor cries at your recital.
But nothing could prepare me for my musical passion bringing my entire faith into question.
The one place where I feel completely myself is behind piano keys. Whatever happens when I’m in that space is as authentically “me” as one gets. There might be times when I fake it, but never when I play. In those times, my emotions are laid bare. Good or bad, confident or tentative, intricate or simple, whatever I play will be true.
So when the sincerity of my faith was questioned because of my playing, I completely lost my bearings. Could I have been lying to myself? Was I using that time to bring praise to me rather than to God? Had I made playing an idol?
For a season, I stopped playing. If I could be this wrong about myself, how could I be sure about God? I cried through nearly every worship set for six solid months. I cried because I missed playing so much and surely that was indicative that the pastor must have been right – I was substituting music for God and worshiping that instead.
Eventually I got up the courage to start playing again. And I realized that the pastor was wrong.
Music is why I believe in God.
I thought that was a bad thing. I was supposed to have loftier reasons for belief. I should be convinced by this piece of theological evidence or that bit of apologetic truth. Emotions aren’t supposed to have any play in why I believe.
But the truth is, for me they do. I have been convinced of the need for a relationship with Jesus, and relationships are clothed in emotions. They extend beyond emotions to be sure, but the emotional component is key. The emotional connections that I feel with people are what convince me that our relationships have value.
When I play, I experience that connection. I experience it with the people who I’m playing for. I experience it more deeply with the people who I’m playing with. And I experience it the most profoundly with the One who gave me the gift in the first place.
We are not all wired the same way. We have different gifts and abilities. We have different ways that we experience connection.
Don’t be afraid to examine criticism of the way that you connect with God. Sometimes there are things that get in the way of that relationship that we aren’t able to easily recognize.
But after you’ve examined, enjoy that place of connection with your whole heart, because it is where you will find God.