Do you ever have one of those moments where reality flashes before you (in a good way) and you ask yourself "How in the world did I get here?"
I had one of those this morning.
The question is rhetorical, because of course I know how I got there. I was standing in a packed church, about to lead a team of several instruments and singers and the entire congregation in worship of God at Mass. I had a late start to the early morning, wasn't as practiced as I'd like to have been, was using a new-to-me guitar and a sound system, and normally I lead at less complicated daily Masses. That moment, as my pastor announced the end of greetings and beginning of Mass, was not the moment to ponder my rhetorical question! It was the time to trust that everything the Lord had worked into me over the last several years would be extractable by the same Lord, despite my feelings of the moment.
But the question is really a moment of awe at God's work. Later I was remembering how one Sunday seven years ago I stood at the podium, nervously preparing simply to cantor for the first time at my parish. And how Joe the organist told me, "You seem nervous. Well, don't be." And how I thought to myself, "Who do you think you are, the Son of God, that you can just tell me to be calm and expect it to happen?!"
That was really the first of several prophetic messages (words from God mediated through human speech and experiences) that began to shape my inner being according to a call from God to learn how to teach people to worship, that was itself a prophetic message to me several decades ago.
Nervousness and insecurity are parts of expecting something from one's own natural ability. I imagine that everyone needs to work through that stuff; I know for sure I have. Time, practice, and experience can reduce some of that, but there also needs to be the spiritual progress of submitting one's natural abilities to God for Him to work through -- or to completely set aside! I went through a short time (for complicated "people" reasons) of being barred from music ministry. It ripped my heart out, but it also drove home right quick that I had no "right" to serve. After that burp of my life passed, each time I approached the ambo to cantor and I bowed before the tabernacle, my heart offered sincere thanks for this gift of being able to lead the congregation in praising God.
And you know what else is funny? When I lead worship, I play guitar. I do believe and accept what the Church says about organ having pride of place, and that is also my preference. And I am not what you would call an excellent guitarist. I have one, very narrow strip of expertise, and that is playing rhythm guitar for church music. When I do that, I can truly worship God and more importantly I can rouse others to worship God. Before leading any music for Mass I always pray that God would draw all hearts present to enter into true, self-giving worship of Him. It humbles me to realize that I am really a second string church musician, and that many Catholics would turn up their noses at the music I play. But when a woman approached us after Mass today to comment that a song we played lifted the congregation's hearts right up to God, I was pleased, knowing our mission was successful.
God has called me, formed me, trained me, tested me. And that's how in the world I got there. Thanks be to God. It's kinda awesome.