“When being is separated from doing, pious thoughts become an adequate substitute for washing dirty feet.” (brennan manning)
If you’ve followed my journey at all these past few weeks or read my earlier blog, “The Tomb, The Womb, The Imposter, and The Beloved,” you know God’s been teaching me some new things, and that He’s leading me on a new adventure.
But it’s not brand new.
A few years ago, before going to Africa, before meeting and then touring with Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb, before having a baby and moving to Minneapolis and watching things rearrange themselves around me, I embarked on a month-long tour up the West Coast with a fellow indie artist. When we set out for that month, we had a total of three paying shows booked at a few churches, and about ten non-paying gigs booked at prisons, youth detention centers, and homeless shelters.. We were renting a car for the entirety of the tour, and didn’t have enough guaranteed income to cover even that. There were moments of fear and wondering how everything was going to come together, but over all I was actually incredibly excited to see what God was up to.
Because I knew in the depths of my being, to the marrow in my bones, that this tour was precisely what God wanted me to do.
It had been a long time coming…a couple years of hit-and-miss touring and wondering where I fit in the musical world. A couple years of experimenting and finding that my favorite shows were always the free ones for people who really needed some sad and depressing songs to relate to. (har har!) A couple years of working with The Mocha Club, Invisible Children, and various local efforts to end modern slavery, and befriending many, many people who needed a friend or an ear or an advocate. And it finally dawned on me, “Go to them.”
So I set out to book a tour of predominantly free concerts, partnering with a few chosen churches and organizations to help offset expenses and work with at the various shelters and prisons.
It worked. So flawlessly. I felt purposed on that tour, and coming home, I felt alive. I felt like this is what I’m made for.
And then the alluring call of possible fame and fortune came. I hit the road with Jennifer and Derek and thought, “this must be what God has for me now!” It was fantastic. It was amazing! It was a dream come true, and incredibly short-lived.
Since then, I’ve ached to get back. Not to the fame, but to the shelters and prisons and churches. Back to the people who, for whatever reason, need me.
And tonight, as I read from The Rabbi’s Heartbeat, I was reminded of this great calling. I was reminded of who Jesus is and what His 33 years looked like:
“At another point in His earthly ministry, Jesus said, ‘The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve.’ On the eve of His death, Jesus took off His outer garment, tied a towel around His waist, poured water into a copper basin, and washed the feet of His disciples. The Jerusalem Bible notes that the dress and duty are those of a slave.
A profound mystery: God becomes a slave. This implies very specifically that God wants to be known through servanthood. …What a scandalous and unprecedented reversal of the world’s values! To prefer to be the servant rather than the lord of the household is the path of downward mobility in an upwardly mobile culture. …and to freely embrace the servant lifestyle [is to take on] the attitude that bears the stamp of authentic discipleship.” (pg. 109)
I was reminded that this calling to give music to the lost and the least is a high calling. That perhaps some dear friends are right in that God has not withheld any good from me but has protected me from something less than what He’s dreamed for me.
Because what He has dreamed for me is a life of service among the least of these – in Africa, in homeless shelters, in prisons – and, as Manning says,
“The call to the servant lifestyle is both a warning not to be seduced by the secular standard of human greatness and also a summons to courageous faith. As we participate in the foot-washing experience, Jesus addresses us directly, commanding our complete attention as He looks into our eyes and makes this colossal claim: ‘If you want to know what God is like, look at Me. If you want to learn that your God does not come to rule but serve, watch Me. If you want assurance that you did not invent the story of God’s love, listen to My heartbeat’.” (The Rabbi’s Heartbeat, pg. 110)
It’s not glamorous, it’s gunky. It’s not mighty, but meek. It’s the antithesis of becoming powerful – it is empowering. Serving. Loving. Giving. Always, always giving.
A high calling, indeed.