I have recently joined a band. Up until this point, my musical contributions were two or three Sundays a month as part of my church’s praise team. It has been a nice way to engage in worship through making a joyful noise.
Like most churches, I’m sure that somebody will always have something to critique: the music is too loud, soft, fast, slow, old, new, or all of the above. Despite that, I have the comfort of knowing deep down that, no matter what missed rhythm or note I happen to make, it all is pleasing to God.
Then I joined a band.
What started as a means for me to play and jam with good people (and very good musicians), to better my own playing, to make mistakes which do not matter, all changed with the departure of a full-time member. You see, I was the fill-in, a means of helping the band with rehearsals when their full-time guy could not make it. I was on the practice squad and loving it. It was even more low-stakes than praise band, despite the more challenging songs.
I’m not what I would consider an expert bassist. I love providing the backbeat with a few riffs here and there. I’m no Flea, Sheehan, Wilkenfeld, or McCartney, but I can hold my own with most songs (4 chords and a cloud of dust). More importantly, worship is about just that – worship. I am not there to perform, so people forgive any mistakes I happen to make.
But now, I am in a band, a band which gets paid to perform, a band which relies on me being able to stretch myself musically, a band which needs me at my A game. The stakes are higher. Missed notes, cues, or rhythms now reflect on more than just me. Yes, welcome to the first-string Varsity team.
The experience has been a baptism of fire: no chord sheets, tabs, etc. Most of the songs are new to me since we play a mixture of country and bluegrass with classic rock. Even the classic rock songs have been a challenge because I am familiar with them but have never actually played them. It is all new to me. My bandmates, however, have been playing with each other for years, so rehearsals usually go like this:
“O.K. let’s play ‘Rag Time Annie.’ Have you heard this one, Jacky?”
“Oh, you’ll catch on. One. Two. A one, two, three, four.”
And away we go. I pick up on the basic chord progressions on the fly.
When we finish the song, by bandmates are kind enough to give me another chance by masking my butchering the song with, “Let’s do that one again. We haven’t played that one in a while, so I am really rusty.” The second (third, fourth?) times usually go quite well…for that rehearsal.
After years of playing together, this band knows the songs by heart, so playing them by memory is not too much of an issue for them. However, I joined at a busy time. I pretty much have had four weeks (one three-hour rehearsal each week) to learn a three-set gig (about 12 songs per set – many of which I have never played before learning them that night). Yes, a baptism of fire, but with grace-filled mentors who are enjoying watching me grow as a musician.
All of this has really provided me with insight and reflection on the nature of calling. God gave me the passion to play music (particularly bass). Although I am no virtuoso, I do not have to be. As hectic as the learning process has been, I am having fun with it all. Although I am not doing so in a worship setting, I am still giving glory to the God who gave me the ability to play music. I am limited in what I can do, but not as much as what I have been at various stages of learning the instrument. My obligation is to use the talents with which He has blessed me to the best of my abilities (and to stretch those abilities to honor Him even more).
Calling is more than professional or theological choices.
Calling is the very heart of what we find fulfilling in our lives: our hobbies, interests, and passions. Even in those realms, calling is not easy.
I have a three-song set to play tomorrow night – no do-overs, live audience. I would be lying if I said I am not freaking out a bit, but I have a peace knowing that this is a part of God’s calling. I know it will not be perfect, but it will be purposeful because He has provided a drive to play and explore what I can do.Do you feel called to pursuing a profession in the Humanities? The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor offers exciting degrees through the College of Humanities. We invite you to stop by for a visit, and see if UMHB is a fit for you.