Some days I really wish that I were one of those people whose life followed a clean, straight trajectory. In this dream world, I would have known in middle or high school the path God wanted me to end up on as an adult. Every faithful decision I made after that point would have been one more triumphant step toward the final goal. You know those people: the five-year-old who claims she will be a doctor and then actually follows through with it or the high schooler destined to be a preacher. Amazing, truly.
However, that is not my story. My story is more circular than linear, a little bumpy rather than straight and with some detours. Prior to my role as the contemporary worship leader at Floris UMC, I spent eight wonderful years teaching elementary school. I loved that job. It was a path I felt confident on, and I knew I was contributing to the future of society. This career path held obvious opportunities for vocational growth that were quite appealing, and I was excited about this future.
During this time, I developed wonderful relationships with my students. Often they would ask me if I had always known I wanted to be a teacher. “No,” I would say. “I didn’t want to be a teacher. In fact, when my elementary school hosted career day, I always dressed as a singer.” (I’ll spare you a description of my early nineties pop singer outfits, but trust me when I tell you, there was a side ponytail.) Then the students and I would giggle at my silly, childish dream. Little did I know my life would loop back to those early longings.
Six years into teaching, I suddenly felt a nudge. Does God have a new route for me? Is it possible that I might actually leave the education world altogether for a career in music ministry? The nudging grew stronger, and it became clear that my plan for a logical trajectory was about to take a serious detour. My calling into worship ministry became so loud, strong and beautiful that it could not be ignored, so I nervously stepped off my comfortable path and headed toward the unknown.
Changing careers into worship leadership was bizarre and very challenging, but I know without a doubt it was the right decisiona move inspired by God. Honestly, most days feel too good to be true. I actually get to spend each day in a professional zone where I can feel God walking patiently beside me while I slowly (and sometimes messily) figure out this whole worship leader thing. Music, my joy and passion, is now also my daily bread. My dream of having a career as a singer is actually a reality (minus the super cool side pony). I could probably spend an entire blog post outlining all the ways in which I feel blessed by this new path, but I’ll save that for another day. Instead, I’d like to focus on my favorite blessing: the band.
Full Circle Band is the contemporary praise team at Floris UMC, and I have the pleasure of spending most waking moments coordinating and working with the forty or so members. I have lots of adorable nicknames for themmy musical misfits, Team Squirrel and several other names referencing the weirdness created when you put a bunch of musicians together. But the name “Full Circle” is actually really important to our identity.
Our name was selected because several of the original members had similar paths. They might have started out sharing their musical gifts in the church during their early years, but over time some left the religious scene to pursue music in outside arenasbars, clubs, theater, etc. Various twists and turns took us away from our original mission; however, God was calling us back to worship. Slowly but surely, each of us came back “full circle,” and we are using our gifts in the church again. While most members are not called to make this their career, they are absolutely fulfilling a call into music ministry.
Full Circle is a unique band in which you’ll find jazz percussionists mixed with bluegrass guitarists. Newly forming high schoolers are learning and growing beside seasoned veterans. Gospel singers are finding harmony lines with musical theater performers. A classically trained cellist might be sitting next to a bass player whose only musical lessons came from middle school friends in a garage.
We are all a bunch of broken sinners with varied pasts and musical skills, but the common thread that holds us together is our recognition that these musical gifts do not belong to us. They belong to God. We now present our music as a love offering so that we might facilitate worship experiences that lead the congregation to experience the Holy Spirit in a uniquely personal way. It is a pleasure to stand beside these dedicated and passionate Christ followers each Sunday. They inspire me to dig deeper into my ministry field each and every day.
Not everyone’s path follows this same circular trajectory. For some, you might actually have had that neat tidy arrow that began in a childhood faith and continued perfectly toward your holy calling. For others, your path might have been a bumpy, curvy line like mine. Regardless, fear not my musical and non-musical misfits. God is using you, and your story is not over with a supposed wrong turn or extra bend in the road. God is calling each one of us all the time; it is simply our job to offer up ourselves and take the first faithful step each time he calls.
God equipped each person with unique gifts that are being refined and discovered along the journey. You might not be musical (if you are, call me), but I assure you, everyone is designed in the image of God with a set of skills that can and should be used to help build the Kingdom. Whatever your gift may be, what is important isn’t the straightness of your path, but simply the fact that you’re bringing it back to God, full circle.