I'm going to start a blog series where, every once in a while, I post what I'm simply going to call "God Stories." These aren't necessarily flashy stories, or funny stories, or healed from cancer stories, but they're God stories all the same. Because any time God intervenes in even the smallest way, to take our lives of desperate dependance and lift them even one step higher, closer or deeper into the fellowship of faith with Him, it's a story worth telling.
STORY #1: WHEN GOD CALLS YOUR BLUFF
Vladic shifted uncomfortably in his seat and looked back at me. “I just don’t want to do it,” he said with a grimace and a shrug.
‘It’ was playing an important musical role in an upcoming ministry opportunity for our small community. Led by a few charismatic personalities with big dreams and godly hearts, the outreach event in question was scheduled to take place in a trailer park meadow and aimed at sharing the love of Jesus with whoever would come. Fliers were passed out, plastered or pegged onto message boards and park trees. An article appeared in the paper. People talked. Before long, the word was out: ‘gospel gathering at the meadow!’ On the agenda for the home-grown revival meeting was preaching, prayer, an alter call, baptism, and—music.
Music was where Vladic fit in. He‘d been asked by the organizers of the small outreach to add his own personal flair to the sound other musicians planned to contribute in leading worship songs for what they all hoped would be a large turnout. Inspired by the vision and honored to be asked, Vladic jumped into the deep end of the planning. Soon, however, as practices turned into jam sessions and the styles of younger band members clashed with his own, Vladic’s idealistic vision faltered. He was all for a revival meeting; he just wanted the musical part, the part his name was associated with, to be successful and excellent. Sensing it might turn into something less, he was ready to bail. It was at this point that our conversation took place—
ME: (oblivious) “How are things coming for the outreach event?”
VLADIC: (listlessly) “I dunno.”
ME: (confused) “What do you mean, ‘you don’t know?’ Aren’t you part of the band?”
VLADIC: (glumly) “I just don’t want to do it.”
I’ve observed many good musicians and have come to classify them into two camps. There are those who, on the one hand, know they’re good but seem to feel a constant need to prove it to you. And then there are those who know they’re good but wear their talent modestly, like a pair of old leather shoes. When the time comes to dance, they’re prepared, and they do it comfortably, deftly. The rest of the time they’re just casually stylish. In my opinion, Vladic fell into the latter camp. The only problem with always being musically stylish is that, when you’re collaborating with other musicians, collective style cannot be guaranteed. This can bother the consummate perfectionist.
“It’s not that I’m a perfectionsist.” Vladic continued defensively—“I just like things to be done right.” I squinted an eye at him and said nothing. He sighed heavily at this and looked away. Finally, with a tone betraying preemptive regret, he broke the telling silence.
“Okay, okay,” he muttered, “what is it you’re wanting to say?”
Given the open door to ‘do my pastor thing,’ I asked him what the point of the gathering was; to offer the community a professional concert, or to offer them the good news of Christ? ‘Christ,’ he acknowledged. ‘Our perfectionism,’ I continued, ‘which can be the fingerprint of pride, is sometimes best combated by purposely allowing for imperfection. Invite people over to dinner without white-glove cleaning your house first. Join in that pick-up game of the sport you’re not the best at. Play your heart out at a public musical event even though the results may not be fitting for a recording studio. Acknowledge that you’re not perfect, or that the situation won’t be perfect, and then predetermine to accept it. Accept that the sky won’t fall if someone is out of tune. Accept that your value isn’t defined by your performance. Accept that God can still do great things and be glorified, not in spite of flawed people, but because of flawed people who are depending on Him. Allow for imperfection. Then grace it.’
Vladic looked at me doubtfully when I was done. “I’m going to go home and take a nap now,” he said. “And then I’m going to think about what you just said.” Then he left.
I didn’t see Vladic again until after the scheduled event. “Well,” I said, cornering him one day, “what happened?”
“I tried to get out of it.” He said. So much for my inspirational speech. Then I realized what he’d said—“tried?” I asked.
“Well, initially I agreed with what you said and told God I would go," he continued. "Then, when I woke up the next day with an extremely sore back, I decided it was the perfect last-ditch excuse. So I called the lead organizer to let him know I wouldn’t be joining them.” This didn’t sound promising, but I could see Vladic wasn’t finished.
“15 minutes later there was a knock at my door,” he continued. “I hobbled over to answer it and discovered that same event organizer standing on the front porch!”
“What did he want?” I asked with curiosity. I was edging forward in my seat.
“He said he wanted to pray for my back!”
“And...?” I found myself almost standing.
“Well, Vladic confided… “I guess you could say God called my bluff— because this man prayed and suddenly my back just felt so much better! And I had no more excuses left. So… I did it. I went and played.”
“Wow,” I said with genuine amazement, falling back heavily into my chair. God was just so cool. But there was one more thing I had to know—“Are you glad you played?”
At this, Vladic also leaned back and crossed his arms, getting a faraway, mystical look in his eyes. He’s quite the showman.
“A lot more people came than I expected,” he started slowly. “They sang along. They listened to the preacher. Someone got baptized.” He paused for a moment before going on. “The whole thing was loud,” he continued, gaining momentum. “It was loud, It was off-key, and it wasn’t perfect… but—“ and he paused again for effect, smiling as he made eye-contact with me, a look of satisfaction on his face—“but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
I left that conversation wondering how many priceless experiences I’ve forfeited for the sake of perfectionism over the years? How many times has God given me the chance to experience His power, amplified by grace, and I’ve told Him I preferred to do things my way or not at all? Are you willing to let God use you, even if it means you don’t get any of the kudos for what He ends up doing? Be careful how you answer; God might just call your bluff.
Surrounded By Grace,