I remember a visit from two of my annual conference representatives that took place while I was in seminary. During the course of their visit, the topic of contemporary worship came up.
“I don’t think I’d be very good at that,” I said. “I’m more of a traditional guy.”
“Good to know,” one of them said. “Believe me, there are plenty of churches in Arkansas that will be glad to hear that.”
Both of us said what we thought was true. Many people thought contemporary worship was nothing but an annoying fad. I thought I had about as much chance of participating in that genre as I did of joining the circus.
This memory struck me Sunday during worship while I was on stage at Fusion UMC, playing electric guitar with a worship band whose set included not a single song that had been written at the time of my conversation at Asbury.
I can see how I got here. The steps from picking up my first acoustic fifteen years ago to playing in church this Sunday are surprisingly linear. My reasoning for expanding both my musical skill set and my appreciation for contemporary genres is as logical as it is for any of my other life pursuits, and maybe more so.
But that doesn’t mean that I could see this coming twenty years ago. I couldn’t. Or at least I didn’t.
When I think about people I really admire among my elders, I often see a similar “never would’ve thought” pattern. My mother retired from teaching and starting making jewelry. James Williamson went from playing guitar for punk pioneers The Stooges to an executive office in silicon valley—and then, at age 60, back to playing punk rock guitar. My friend Boyd dreamed of parachuting from a plane like Charles Lindbergh. On his 65th birthday, he did it.
I used to think stories like this were fun anecdotes. Some people were luckier or more adventurous than others, and their lives took unexpected turns. It gave the rest of us something to gossip about.
But the older I get and the better I listen, the more I’m thinking that such surprises are not only more common than I thought. They are essential components to a healthy, meaningful life—not because of the surprises themselves, but because of the posture of openness that makes them possible. We cannot have positive change if we will not allow room for it.
Which is partly how I ended up on stage, playing electric guitar with a worship band at Fusion UMC in Mitchell, SD.
When these thoughts hit me on Sunday, I couldn’t help but smile, right in the middle of one of the songs. I love where I live. I love what I do. My life has taken a terrific turn, and it all started with a few simple decisions not to rule things out.
Who knows? Maybe the circus is next.