“Our hearts become the instruments we learn to play so well,” writes the late Dan Fogelberg in his song, Nexus.
I can remember sitting in a meeting where I was getting feedback on my Christian journey as part of the ordination process. This was all the way back in 1986. The crux of the meeting was that the council supported me, but one member had a bit of advice to offer. He said, “You are going to have to learn to commit to one thing, though, and quit jumping around.” I listened and filed the suggestion away as if planting a seed in my soul to see what might grow out of it.
It is true that I have a history of juggling many different things and interests. In college I couldn’t decide between the path of religion or physical education and ended up majoring in both before settling on seminary to further my studies. I have also held a number of different kinds of jobs in my life: primarily ministry, but also YMCA coordinator, juvenile probation officer, hospice counselor, and foster care director.
To the conventional eye it appears that I can’t decide what I am going to be when I grow up. But, to me, I have felt a remarkable consistency in my choices. There is a deep, soulful impulse that drives my choices that is reflected in Fogelberg’s line, “Our hearts become the instruments we learn to play so well.” As I have reflected on my life every choice has been laced with this sense of honoring my heart first and foremost.
If the goal of one’s life is to achieve financial security and a retirement free of worries, then yes, it appears that I have not yet committed to one goal and one future, seen by my ever-present movement. It’s not that I don’t yearn for those things too. I do! But, when I must make a choice between honoring what my heart most desires and what my soul yearns for, I will always choose those over the tempting promises of predictability and security (although life has taught me those can be empty promises themselves).
I love Fogelberg’s line because in every choice I have made, I have had this feeling that I was learning to play the instrument of my heart, to satisfy its needs, and to find the right notes and rhythm that would make my heart sing. I may never become the expert of any one thing or profession, but I will become the master of my own heart. I will commit to a love affair with my own soul and together we will make beautiful music that heals, that loves, and that embraces the joy and grief of life.