Thursday, June 9, 2011

Longing for the Road Not Taken

There was a time when my musical instrument was my passion. And I mean PASSION! During the high school years, I practiced so many hours on my Alto Horn (a brass instrument slightly smaller than a baritone and in the key of E-flat) that my brothers began to call me "Metallic Lips." I had a clear goal and I would stop at nothing until I reached it. That goal was to make it into the very top band, Wonderland Band, at Central Music Institute (a famed Salvation Army band camp in the Central Territory).

Make it, I DID! I will never forget the first rehearsal. A friend of mine, Kevin, was also getting his first exposure to playing in a top-notch band like Wonderland Band. He and I exchanged glances that said, "Can you believe we're here? Can you believe we are living this incredible dream?" It was powerful. I wanted that moment to last forever. I wanted that music to last forever. I wanted those friendships, honed in part by the music, to last forever.

Forever DIDN'T happen. Life intervened. Shortly before my senior year in high school, I was approached by the bandmaster of the Chicago Staff Band with news of an opening in the horn section the following January. All I needed to do was graduate from high school one semester early. Sadly, my parents (S.A. officers) received moving orders and the South Dakota high school I moved to placed my three remaining courses in the second semester, ruining my one chance of joining that prestigious band.

I carried my passion overseas after college, when I worked at The Salvation Army's International College for Officers. I attended a large London corps where I was refused admittance to their senior band. Even though my abilities matched those in the horn section, they were not yet allowing women in the upper band. I was offered a spot in the junior band and time in their weekly rehearsals. I decided to make do with the rehearsal time and, again, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of playing with an outstanding Salvation Army band.

When I returned from London, I began graduate school at the University of Illinois and eventually met and married my non-Salvationist husband. I kept hoping, over the years, that somehow the Army would lure my husband in (since he has a masters degree in trumpet performance and is a far more gifted musician than I am). Alas, that hasn't happened. I haven't played regularly in a Salvation Army band since we married.

I have been able to get my Salvation Army fix from our annual attendance at our ten day Bible camp (CBLI) and sporadic corps attendance over the years. I am able to sing those great Salvation Army hymns and associate with Army friends. But my passion for Army banding has lain dormant, burning like an ember that refuses to be fully snuffed out.

This past week, I have found myself in full-blown homesickness ... homesick for those moments of belonging to an Army band ... moments of hearing the tones blend in such a way that an audience can be moved to a spiritual pitch of worship unlike any other. The Chicago Staff Band has been in London performing with various other Salvation Army staff bands. I have viewed the photos of old friends who are living my dormant dream. I have watched the videos of a magnificent march up the mall towards Buckingham Palace (the very Palace I was privileged to visit with my Upper Norwood friend, Ray). It makes me want to weep.

But, I am holding back my tears and clinging to the promise of God's wisdom for my life. A few weeks ago, I spent a few days with a faithful Army friend, Lisa (who also left the Army when life intervened). As we talked, she was marvelling at all the amazing opportunities God brought my way in my twenties. She married young and had children early (and is already enjoying the grandparent phase of life), while I travelled the world and had my children late (what feels like my geriatric years).

I regaled her with my tale of tea with Ray at the Palace. I told her about the awesome privilege of an invitation to tea with theologian John R. Stott, while at Wheaton College. She listened as I explained how I landed a job transcribing C.S. Lewis' personal letters for four years. Then, I told of the rare chance I had to travel with Dr. Lyle Dorsett and his wife to Scotland for an oral history interview with C.S. Lewis' first cousin, Ruth Parker. During my time at ICO (International College for Officers) I was able to return for an individual visit with Ruth Parker and bring her a Madeira cake (her favorite). I travelled with a missions group to the Philippines. The Lord blessed me with so many fantastic, enviable opportunities.

So, while I sit here in my little farmhouse, babbling with preschoolers all day every day, Lisa declared it "no small wonder" that I am casting backward glances to the many opportunities of days gone by. My heart is frantically searching for direction, some passion to move my life in a direction of purpose ... to regain an identity apart from my mothering role. It is too easy to look back and say, "Lord, why did you carry my feet on a different path than I expected?"

At this point, I have to continue looking to God and asking Him to guide my steps, even if they lead away from passions like Army banding. Perhaps I must carve out a new purpose and goal for my life. I truly pray that He has more amazing opportunities lying just ahead of me, waiting to be seized. And I'm also praying that He won't turn me to a pillar of salt (like Lot's wife, who, leaving family behind cast back a wistful glance) for my longing for the road not taken. It can't hurt to put a further Army banding opportunity on my bucket list, can it? Only God knows where my feet are headed. All I can do is lay my passions and my willingness at His feet.


Wendy said...

I've been thinking about all this lately, how different our steps are. We have a friend who's having his first child at 52. By the time I'm 52 my youngest child will be in his late 20s (God willing).

Hubby and I talked about how different their parenting will be from ours - the mistakes we made from being parents so young, how hard it all was. And the different types of blessings we'll have.

With every door closed to us is an unexpected blessing of another kind just around the corner.

Amy Sorensen said...

I must remind myself of ths constantly, that there is a time and season for everything. I hope you have a musical season soon!

When I graduated from college, the commencement speech was given by Madeline L'Engle. (I KNOW!!!! It was amazing!) She spoke about how she always wanted to write but also wanted to focus on being a mother, so she didn't pursue her writing until they were all in school. I've taken that as my life's direction, too. This fall, EVERYONE will be in school all day. I am hoping I can really have the time and the focus to follow my dream now. That it will be my season for finding writing success.