As I sit here to write this I struggle to even piece the thoughts together. Should I be totally open? Should I polish it? Should I be tactful?
One of the most painful experiences I have ever had was seeing the congregation of my church walking out on me as my band and I tried to engage with them at the end of a Sunday service. Was I preaching heresy? No. Was I doing some ungodly act? No. Was I being disrespectful to the pastor or members? No. My “sin” was presenting some original works, promoting my concert, and asking for support. In five minutes, the congregation went from approximately 500 people to about 15. Needless to say, I was totally embarrassed as I stood standing asking for their attention, asking for silence so I could make the announcement and do a few songs. Like in the parable of the sower and the seed, my plea fell on stony ground and the birds gladly swooped it up.
I learnt quite a few lessons that day and that week that followed;
Core support is never in the masses:
Having lots of people around you and cheering you on feels good. However, when the next trend or hip thing comes along, the masses will be gone in five minutes or less. The 15 people that remain are the ones that will support you in the good times and in the bad times. Whether you’re hip or unknown, look for the 15 people and keep going. Ask Gideon: he had to settle and fight with 300 hundred. And guess what? He won.
Even in church, not everyone around you is for you:
Some will smile, maybe even compliment you, but they may not be for you. After that experience I asked God for discernment; in my naivety I once thought every member in my congregation was “for me”. Well, the reality of life is different. Some will do things to malign your name as well as undermine your work and credibility. I did not retaliate in kind but drew on my inner strength. After that week (?) I continued to pursue a genuine relationship with Christ and to engage in fellowship with believers who sincerely cared about me as a person and who wanted to live out God’s word daily. Not everyone that calls you ‘brother’ thinks of you as a brother.
You are stronger than you know:
It was ironic. In the face of humiliation my bandmates questioned why my “own” would treat me that way. Yes, I felt hurt, yes I cried, my wife was upset; we both wondered, “Why?” Faithful member, worship leader, keyboardist, former choir director: Why? However, after searching myself and dealing with the pain, I found a strength I didn’t know that I had. One that allows me to smile with the Judases knowing they will eventually betray. A strength to pursue in the face of challenges. The strength to cry out to God, to praise Him - even when I didn’t feel to. I am quite a skinny guy, so my muscular strength isn’t that much, but I found out that real strength is not measured in muscles but in heart, in passion, and in mental and spiritual resilience.
Passion can be a lonely road:
When you’re passionate about something, it can be a long, lonely trek. Your passion will be questioned and misunderstood. Your passion will be used as the barometer and thermometer of your walk with Christ. The thing that you are passionate about, some will consider it your idol because of your discipline and dedication to learn and improve. In my case, it is music. Needing to learn and grow in an environment where many are less passionate is quite disheartening at times. My passion and drive have been and at times probably are easily misinterpreted as “you love that thing more than God”. However, as lonely as it is, only God knows my heart and commitment to him. He will reward in due time.
So there you have it, a few things I learned from that experience, as painful as it was. I believe, and I am convinced, I have come out better. God indeed does work all things out for your good.