Wednesday, May 9, 2018

To know...or be known. That is the question.

Several years ago someone used me as a guinea pig for a course he was taking.  He was taking a course on research.  In particular he was learning about interviewing people, among other things.  So basically all he wanted to do was sit down with me, ask me questions, and let me talk all about my life as a music minister.  As you can imagine, I jumped on the opportunity.

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No, it wasn't that kind of course.
One of his questions to me was, "What is something you have learned from your experience?"  I had a ready answer (of course).  I've worked with kids as young as 3 years old and adults as old as 90+.  What is most interesting to me is how similar people are, regardless of age or station in life.  We all have a similar set of needs--both basic and, to some degree, beyond basic.  We have to eat.  We have to drink.  We have to rest.  But we also all have a need of acceptance and love.  As it turns out, choir is one place where people seek to meet those second tier basic needs (I'm sure there's a fancy name for those...).  Sure, how we set about meeting those needs varies widely based on the age of the person involved, but the needs...they are near universal.

Maybe that's why some prayers, regardless of how removed they are from our current circumstance, resonate deeply within us.  I don't have all that much in common with Saint Francis of Assisi, but ever since I first learned it in high school (3.62 million years ago), the Prayer of Saint Francis has been one of my favorite prayers.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy.

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Full disclosure here.  While the prayer is traditionally associated with Saint Francis, it isn't found in his writings at all, and actually hasn't been confirmed in writing any earlier than 1912.  So there's that, but still...

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So he didn't write it,
but he does have interesting hair.
Initially I was most drawn to the first half of the prayer.  It is a list of things that I can do to shine the light of Christ into the world.  It's active.  More importantly, as an extrovert it resonates with me at a deep level because it means I can put myself out there.  It comes fairly naturally to me.

Over time, though, I've come to value the second half of the prayer even more.  I find it much more difficult to live up to...and much more rewarding.  One of my flaws (of which there are many) is that I desperately want to be consoled and understood and loved.  It would take years on a therapist's couch to unpack why exactly that is.  In the prayer, though, I ask to seek to console and understand and love.  The math is simple, really.  In a world where everyone seeks consolation and nobody seeks to console, there will be no consolation.  In a world where everyone seeks to be understood and nobody seeks to understand, there will be no understanding.  And in a world where everyone seeks to be loved while nobody seeks to love, there will be no love.  On the other hand, if we all seek to console, understand, and love, then we will all receive the same!  Thus it is only in seeking the well-being of others that we can find it for ourselves.  A worthy goal, and a personal struggle.

In the years I've been doing music ministry, I've discovered that most people aren't in it for the music.  They're in it for the relationships.  They're in it for the esprit de corps.  They're in it to be a part of something beyond themselves.  They are in it...to be known.  Not to be known like a celebrity, to be known by a friend as a friend.  To be cared for and missed.  To be valued.  To be...well, to be consoled, and understood, and loved.

So I'd like to think that serving in music ministry is my way of living out this prayer, both the first part and the second.  I'd like to think it's my way of being a source of light in the world and seeking to love others more than I need to be loved myself.  On my best days, I think maybe it's true.  If I'm honest, there are other days on which I wonder if the only reason I do this is because of my pervasive need to be loved myself.  As is so often the case...the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

Either way, the prayer is a helpful reminder of how I should be in the world...how I want to be in the world...and with God's help how I can be in the world.

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Amen.

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