All Of This

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When I finally bit the bullet and started a blog, I had decided I wouldn’t resign myself to expectations in terms of what it needed to look like.  But with that has come a healthy dose of procrastination and inactivity, which I mostly attribute to 2 main culprits:  lack of discipline on my part, and the whole out of sight/out of mind deal.  But I’ve also realized something about myself:  when I don’t do something for a while I overthink the heck out of it, and start ruthlessly critiquing it before it even exists.  With the first post I ever wrote, some sort of inhibition was sidestepped, and I pushed through my feelings of sheepishness and just dove in.  To be honest it’s taken a while to come back to that place, but here we are.  I had to talk myself into doing this the same way I did when I wrote my very first post.  That fear of sounding sappy-or-pretentious-or-ignorant-all-at-once, that I felt then and feel again now, is no small thing—but it is by no means too big.  There’s that feeling…and the fact that every paper I ever wrote in school came back with “wordy” marked in red.  And while yes, I definitely want to work on that, some of it’s just how I say what I’m trying to; with honesty, but also sometimes with a lot of duct tape on it.  This whole thing might sound kind of dumb to you, and that’s honestly fair, you might not relate to it in the slightest.  But if in the slightest you do… then this is for you.

I want to talk about being actually being vulnerable, but to do that well I need to give a bit of background to what these past couple years have entailed for me.

When you’re a student, your degree is something in the distance that seems a long way off.  You’re just chipping away at it, spending way too much time on Netflix and making McDonald’s runs at 2 am with some of the best humans you’ve ever known, and then one day four years have gone by and you’ve accomplished what you set out to do in what felt like 5 minutes.  I had no idea how much of my learning—and His shaping of me—was going to truly start after I finished college.  After graduating I went to intern at a church in Lethbridge, and after that internship I finally got to do (an awesome) summer of camp ministry, and then, two years ago, took my first worship position here in Kelowna.

To be able to look back at every single step of life and see His hand in it, gently (at other times, violently) leading me where I’ve needed to be is a gift that I take for granted not even for a nanosecond.  There is so much that has happened in the last few years that has formed me and grown in me that written English just simply isn’t equipped to incarnate well.  A maelstrom of goodness and agony and beauty that I’m sacredly grateful for.  Maybe some of that should be attempted in another post.  Maybe it’s the kind of thing I should talk about with you over coffee someday.  Either way, I won’t attempt it now.

What I do want to reflect on is what this most immediate season—one that you may have borne witness to externally, but not to the iceberg which lay beneath.  And that’s where the vulnerability comes in.  I think what we mostly collectively practice in the Instagram age of humanity is what I call “sexy vulnerability”—where we show people just enough of our weakness  in a way we can still control its appearance, spin it, make it post-able.  What I’m trying to do in my life is push past that easiness to the candor that no one could classify as particularly “sexy,” but the kind that hopefully leads to some semblance of bravery.

I hope this story doesn’t feel self-indulgent, I promise it’s not meant to be.  It’s meant to share my fear and my stepping into it, in the hopes that maybe you’ll step into yours.  And know this: that as someone who’s made something, I wrestle with its merit as a work on a fairly regular basis.  Even as a piece of art that’s consecrated to Jesus.  Actually probably especially because it’s consecrated to Jesus.

I, like most everyone, primarily fear two things:  failure and rejection.  What I wasn’t aware of is that when you actually start to chase any of your dreams—when they’re no longer floating around in the blissful clouds of “someday,” but actually start coming in for landing, and then finally hit pavement—you strip yourself of armour in a manner that leaves you so, so very open to falling flat on your face…in front of everyone.

I didn’t think it would be like that.  When I first fell in love with music and guitar as a teenager, I was naive enough to not consider that my early songs were terrible (they were) and that showing them to people might not be a good idea (it wasn’t).  I just showed them anyway.  As I grew up, making an album one day was always just going to happen in my mind.  But, like most dreams, it was off in “someday”; there was no flesh and bone to be found on it—no plan.  That changed when I realized two things.  Firstly, that there actually was a desire from others for the songs I was letting into the world.  As I led my own songs in chapels at Green Bay, people wanted to know how they could listen to them, and I had no answer.  Secondly, I realized that for an album to happen it would have to leave the “someday” and actually hit the pavement.  Writing songs was one thing, actually giving them life outside my head and heart was something entirely different.

Along the way of making concept into reality, there were many, many crossroads involving many, many fears.  First, I feared Ryan (my producer, engineer and all-around gem of a human) wouldn’t want to do this project with me.  Then I feared the musicians I asked to play on it wouldn’t want to.  Then I launched the Kickstarter and feared that I wouldn’t raise the money.  Lots of Wouldn’ts.  And through each of those Wouldn’ts, my fears proved vain.  But do you know what was actually the greatest fear, that coursed its way through the entire process, long after all I needed to be in place was?  It wasn’t that the project would fail entirely.  Not at all.  It was that it would happen—but no one would care.  That it would be just okay, and that’s all.

There’s a show on tv right now called This Is Us (you probably already watch it, I’m pretty late to this train), and one of the main characters is an actor who stars as the lead on a shallow network sitcom called “The Man-ny.”  It leaves him artistically unfulfilled, but he’s terrified that it may be all he’s capable of.  After spontaneously quitting the show, he sits drinking with his twin sister, asking himself if he’s just destroyed his own career.  He looks her in the eyes and says, “What if I’m not I’m not better than the Manny?  What if I’m exactly Manny-good.”  He’s not afraid of falling flat on his face so much as he’s afraid that what he’s made isn’t really going to have any sort of lasting impact.

And for someone who creates, that’s the real fear.  The fear that your work will resound in a void.  I didn’t even know it was there when I started, but rest assured, it haunts you, quickly.

Thankfully that fear has not been where this story ends.  I’ve gotten to hear story after story after story of these songs doing for people what others’ songs have done for me.  That they’ve served as a means of people seeing the beauty of Jesus, better understanding His heart, helping them cling to the true Hope, as the little hopes that had  held them to this point come undone before their eyes.  The gratitude I have from hearing these stories is something I’ll never be able to truly demonstrate to you, I only hope that you can experience it in your own life in some way.  There’s really nothing else like it.

When you set out to do something that truly means something to you, whether that’s pursue a project, or a person, or a life of some kind, the fear that lies in wait is not only that your hopes and dreams might be dashed upon the rocks.  There’s also the fear that they’ll manifest, and simply evaporate quietly.  The latter is the one you’d have to live with silently yourself.  But you know what?  For anything that’s worth anything, that risk is there.  Because there are stakes required in things of value.  But no matter how high the stakes may be, nothing this side of eternity will grant us Ultimate Satisfaction.  There are some pretty incredible opportunities I’m going to experience in the next couple months, where I’m actually pinching myself that they’re even real.   But they don’t change the fact that when I go to bed at night, and wake up in the morning, I’m still me.  Those awesome things still don’t fix all the cracks in my soul that only He can mend.  They never will.  Only He.  And maybe that’s why this has been so beautiful.  Because even when all of this at its best, it still remains secondary.  Secondary to the Source of where these songs came from in the first place.  Because all these little graces pale in comparison to the big, big grace of His Mending, and the Knowing— the Mending and the Knowing I’ve received in part now, but await so much more in Fullness.  Hopefully, whether you’ve heard these songs or not, you’re awaiting too.

j

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