Something you should know going in to this post. I'm one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason. I also believe in God. That's wavered over the years, but never really changed. Even in my moments of deepest doubt, the closest I've ever come to walking away from my belief in God was the day I thought to myself, "Maybe God's trying to tell me he doesn't exist." So, yeah...my faith's not going anywhere any time soon. And considering that I'm now thirty-eight years old, it's probably a safe bet that it's not going anywhere ever.
If Everything Happens For a Reason
When you believe everything happens for a reason, you spend your life in constant search of your "purpose." If you're a Christian, you might read The Purpose Driven Life. I certainly did, though my commentary on the pros and cons of that book are beyond the scope of this blog post. And if you have any religious beliefs at all, even if you're what they call "spiritual, but not religious", you probably spend a lot of time wondering how you can use your calling to serve God.
Well, that's me. Like I said, those beliefs have wavered from time to time, but never gone away completely. And now that I'm near the middle point of my life, I think I can safely conclude that I'll always feel this way. And what do I feel? I feel that God made me the way I am and he gave me certain interests and talents and abilities and he wants me to use those talents out in the world. No, I don't think I'm some kind of "chosen one". I think God feels this way about everyone, myself included.
When God Doesn't Make Sense
When we providential types encounter hardships, it wounds us deeply because we wonder how God could allow this to happen. And sometimes we can't even fathom why God would allow these things to happen. Here's my story.
If you read the posts I linked to above, you know I used to direct a church choir. And after what I've just told you, you've probably figured out that I viewed that choir as my purpose. My calling. Here's a little more of the backstory.
I was thirteen when I decided to study music in college. At the time, my career goal was to direct a high school band. Well, I went on to grow and change and my goals changed with me. I set my sights on church choir for a number of reasons, but there's one that's pertinent to this topic. I wanted to direct church choir because I believed God had given me a love of music and wanted me to take that talent and give it back to him. So I did. I took my musical knowledge and I used it in church. Then I lost that job.
Afterward, my life spiraled out of control. I had lost my purpose. Worse. I'd been rejected by God himself. I had no idea where to go after that, so I kind of bumbled around and tried different things, all the while looking for that "calling". The one I thought I'd found when I took the church job. Well, I had obviously been mistaken about that calling, so I needed to find another. If God didn't want me working in the church, I needed to figure out where he did want me.
Well, a few years later I thought I'd found it when I got a job teaching music in a Christian school. And, though I won't tell the story because it's long, the circumstances that led to that teaching position were, indirectly and after quite a few forks in the road, the result of me losing the choir job. I was so excited. Providence was at work again! Now, surely, I was on the path God intended.
Then I lost the teaching job (basically, I was very shy, which made parents feel I was unapproachable, and since this was a private school and the parents paid the bills as well as our salaries, keeping the them happy was everything). So I was derailed from my path once again.
So, again, I had that feeling that God had rejected me. I shook my angry fists at heaven and demanded to know why he gave me a love for music if he didn't want me using it. I even wrote this poem about it:
A man picked up some clay one day
And held it in his hand
And he sculpted a little songbird
The fairest in the land
He gave his songbird wings of gold
And eyes of sapphire blue
In all the world no one had seen
A bird of such a hue
And he loved his little bird so much
He kept it in a cage
Protecting it from evil things
From envy, lust, and rage
But the bird wondered, "Why did you make me
If you won't let me fly
And must I stay here always
A prisoner until I die?"
At Christmastime the man declared,
"A gift I'll give my bird!
A singing voice the likes of which
The world has never heard.
And then my bird will sing to me
All pretty in its cage
A lovely song to bring me joy
When I reach old age."
And he loved his little bird so much
He kept it locked away
And brought it out to sing to him
For an hour every day
But the bird kept on wondering
About so many things
But mainly what the purpose was
Of a bird that cannot sing
And the bird became so lonely
Sitting there on the shelf
While the man never let it sing
For anyone but himself
And as the songbird sat alone
Its colors began to dim
And the man didn't know why his bird
No longer sang for him
And he loved his little bird so much
He let it fly away
So others could enjoy its song
Each and every day
But the bird never stopped wondering
About the one who'd loved it so long
So it returned just once a day
To sing the man a song
And so I sat. And I wondered. And I asked, "Why?" And no answers came.
An Earlier Calling
I think being a writer was my first real career goal. I'd written little picture book stories from the time I was old enough to hold a crayon. I wrote a poem, the first of many, when I was nine. I made various attempts at writing full length novels throughout my childhood, and finally managed to finish one when I was twelve. Poetry was my therapy as I dealt with all that teen angst during my high school years. And then...I stopped writing. I don't know why. It just didn't seem important any more. Music was my career. I needed to focus on that.
But then, of course, the writing came back and took center stage in my life. And it's got me wondering...is this my calling? Is this my purpose?
A Lifetime of Experiences
I've explained my musical frustrations to you. I've had other frustrations as well. Other hobbies and interests that could have turned into careers but just never did. One of those is dance. I think I've blogged about this in the past as well, but basically I didn't discover my love of dance until I was in my twenties, and didn't start to get serious about it until my thirties. And two years ago, at the age of thirty-six, I signed up for my first ballet class. That's right, I started taking ballet at the age when most ballerinas retire. What was I thinking?
Well, I certainly wasn't going to go pro. You have to train your entire life for something like that and, like I said, most dancers my age are retired. But I thought I could at least get good at it.
What I discovered is that ballet requires our bodies to move in such unnatural ways that if you haven't studied from a young age, there are things you'll probably never do. It's less to do with being too old than with not having spent years training your joints to go in all those convoluted directions. And while I, courtesy of the fact that I teach Yoga, have a fair degree of flexibility, there are things which ballet requires of me that my body will likely never do.
I became pretty depressed about all this for a while. After all, what was the purpose of studying ballet if I was never going to move across the stage with all the grace and poise of a professional?
An Aha! Moment
I had become so discouraged about the whole ballet thing that I took about six months off. Just didn't go to class because after all, what was the point? But I can't go too long without dance before I start to feel that tug on my heart, and I finally felt it this week. I went back to ballet, and while I wasn't performing any better than I had been for the past year, I enjoyed myself. Even learned a couple of new things. And something occurred to me.
What if what God made thirty-eight years ago was not a dancer? Not a musician. Not an actress or a filmmaker or any of those other things I've tried to be over the years. What if what God made was a writer? And all those other things? They're just fodder for stories. Opportunities for me to follow the time honored advice of writing what I know, while constantly expanding that list of Things I Know.
Could it be? Have I found what I was meant to do all along? Or is this another seat on the merry-go-round? Another stopping point on the journey that is my life.
We'll see. But in the meantime, I'm going to dance. And I'm going to sing. And at the end of the day, I'm going to write about it.