I’ve been meditating more on this topic since the other day. Many times I have been passed over for ministry positions because I don’t have the paper qualifications that say I’m entitled to put myself out there for professional ministry or music. Thankfully, Scripture keeps me strong and pressing on in confidence of my vocation, reassuring me that God’s will for my life will prevail, regardless of whether or not I have a certificate on the wall saying I know how to play the piano or sing or share my heart with others. I firmly believe that:
“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before Him.” (1 Cor. 1:27-29)
The Rev. Carl Luthman, may he rest in peace, shared this eye-opening truth with me ten years ago when I was frustrated at trying to figure out how to make time to go back to school and get the degree so many places insisted I have while I was working 50 hours a week and serving the Lord in church as part-time contemporary music leader. I was feeling hurt by how many times the doors to ministry roles I knew I was capable of filling, and in fact was filling at the time, were closed in my face without a church ever meeting with me and discovering face to face the gifting God has placed in me. They judged me simply on the fact that my resume doesn’t say I graduated from a music school and summarily dismissed me as a viable candidate for ministry because they assumed I couldn’t possibly have the appropriate skills needed to direct a choir or play the piano or organ. They dismissed me without ever hearing me play or sing, yet those with “proper training” have often told me they don’t know how I learned to sing classical music without having had voice lessons and that my playing style is song-like and extremely difficult NOT to follow.
What those churches missed out on was someone whom the Lord gifted to read music like most people read the newspaper, someone who was given the tenacity to drill herself on technique and never allow an “it’ll do” musical offering to the Lord because of lack of preparation on her own part and who preaches the same to ensembles under her direction, someone who hears past the squeaky, timid voice and investigates the heart of someone who wants to sing a solo but had always been told he wasn’t good enough, someone who understands and accepts working under authority to support the pastoral vision for a congregation’s future, someone absolutely certain of her own calling and who won’t stop serving when only a part-time role is available because of my certainty it’s what I’m called to do.
I don’t know which church the Lord is preparing to open the door for me to step into next yet. I feel He is on the cusp of a wonderful move in my life and I’m extremely excited. I believe that the church that seeks with hearts open to God’s leading is the one that will see God’s anointing upon me and invite me to serve their congregation.
Is the waiting hard? Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes being ignored and rejected has been piercing and I want to cry because I have been praying and believing so hard for God to lead me back to where I can serve Him in full-time ministry, yet churches have passed me over without consideration in favor of someone who has a piece of paper on the wall saying they sat through all required piano and theory lessons back when I was teaching piano and theory lessons. I know that my calling is not to be a concert pianist nor opera singer nor rock star but foremost an encourager and leader. My venue for ministry happens to be musical.
Pastor Luthman’s counsel to me that day warned me that one could have the anointing “educated right out of you” and that I should continue strong in what I knew God has called me to do. He pointed out that all the technical training in the world will fall flat “as a noisy gong” without God’s anointing on the person and that he believed the Lord’s anointing shone through me and that he saw how the Holy Spirit moved people in the congregation when I was leading. In fact, I’m still greatly humbled every time I think about how many times someone has come up to me and shared that something I did, said, sang or played during worship hour touched them somehow. I do believe God uses me as His vessel or conduit of grace in uplifting, healing, loving and any other way He wishes. I am determined to stay open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life that He will continue to find me a willing servant for His purposes.
So I find solace in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth when he said,
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [in my case, the pain of rejection without consideration] away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:8-10).