What a messy, mixed-up, and confusing inner dialogue I've been walking around with for the past two months or so. Remember that post from a while back that talked about self-esteem/self-perception and my pesky need for affirmation? Well, I've been thinking a whole lot more about it since....
There has been this gnawing sense of something unfinished, something unrealized, something not yet fleshed-out. As if my need for affirmation and approval was the tip of the figurative iceberg and really something very huge was just under the surface.
Before the CD was released, Pastor John, my boss, was in his counselor mode during one of our meetings, processing with me what this new stage in life might bring (or not). He asked me, "How will you measure success?"
I spit out the first thing that made any sense, "I'll be successful if I'm able to continue writing and performing my music and still pay the bills."
John just sort of nodded his head. He knows better than to argue with me - I prefer to learn things the hard way.
In just the short amount of time I've been working as a recording artist I have found that answer to be completely unsatisfactory. Have I not always known (and believed) that money is simply a means to an end rather than the end. It's so very unsatisfying to walk away from a performance (or a CD release) simply measuring success in terms of "did I make enough to cover expenses with, Lord willing, a little extra to boot?"
Deep down, without admitting it to myself, I desire to be known, dare I say - to be famous. I find myself jealous of those more popular or more talented than me. I find myself wishing to perform at venues that I think are the cats meow. I find myself obsessing about ways in which to get my music known. I put myself and my work out there and say, "Please, know me through this and like me. Please give me what I crave for this thing that I've done." I sinfully desire praise in order to feel good about myself.
Wait a second. Did I really write that? Am I really gonna let those private thoughts just hang out there like that? Man, I sound like a jerk. That's not why I got into this thing in the first place. I felt a push, no, a calling to share my story with others. To show how God has met me over and over again at my point of need.
Then, comes the realization that He's doing it again. Meeting me, right when I need Him, in this unexpected hollow place that I've carved out for myself. That place that has room for only me - the state of mind that centers only on myself and leaves me never satisfied, only pursuing that next big event, performance or song.
He calls me out of that hollow place and into his presence. To remember that for which I was made. To get centered in His truth. To feel loved for who I am not for what I do. To find purpose and meaning in Him. To get rid of that which ensnares me, that traps me, that pushes me into a vicious cycle.
Its amazing how quickly peace comes sometimes.
Back to the Question at Hand
If not through fame or fortune; how then, will I define success?
I better pray, right?
So I did.
And I waited.
Then the answer (in the form of a question - God must like Jeopardy) I never expected/wanted to hear came:
"Would you still do this if fame was not in the plan?"
"What? But, You made me with this pesky personality that craves - no, demands - affirmation from others. And, really, God that seems very unfair. I do all this work and reap none of the benefits. What about all those other famous people? Why are they famous? Huh? Huh?" [By the way, I'm an ESTJ on Myers-Briggs with a strong Type 3 enneagram with a high WOO on strength finders.]
Will you still do this without fame and notoriety? Will I be enough for you?"
A giant figurative brick just hit me in the head.
"Oh, Lord......Please forgive me......You are more than enough."
That whole coming clean dialogue led me to take a very serious look at why I'm doing this, who I'm doing it for and how I know if I've done it. In the process, I've come up with some priorities for this work of mine. I don't think its absolutely complete and I'm sure I'll adjust it and tweak (not twerk) it as I go along, but here they are.
I'm going to...
- Write songs (good and bad). Mostly about the stuff of life. Mostly about God's redeeming work in this world.
- Focus on those to whom I am called to serve: NewDay, Mayo Clinic & hospitals, jail, nursing facilities, etc.
- Take practical steps in creating a sustainable business without obsessing over numbers (people or financial)
- Prioritize my time to create (more) healthy patterns for myself and my family.
- Let go of things I can't control (audiences size, public reactions, notoriety, etc)
- Play wherever I can play - in more and more places I haven't played.
- Enjoy and/or inspire a good laugh whenever possible.
Big answer for the question of the day - "How will I define success?"
I think I can define success as the living out these priorities. Simple as that.
It feels good to have this down on paper - albeit blogging paper. I'm sort of afraid to hit the "publish" button because this is so very personal. Part of me says to scarp it and just write it in a song (which I'll probably do anyway), but I committed a long time ago to making this inward journey part of the outward journey. It's sort of weird, but that's the way I roll.
I also think my journey is not so different from yours. What is your 'idol' that creeps up even in the midst of doing good (mine being fame)? That thing which distracts you from what's important and leaves you in that hollow place? What snaps you out of it?
During this week of Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for a God that meets us over, and over again, in that hollow place, and brings us back to himself to keep moving on in this crazy journey of life!