I am more than what I do.
I have been involved with the band No Longer Music for twelve years. I have had the privilege of performing hundreds of shows in over fifty countries. I have seen people kneeling in the main square of Reykjavik, Iceland; praying to receive Jesus in Beirut, Lebanon; and responding to the Gospel in cities from Moscow and Madrid to Warsaw. I have prayed with tattooed, hardcore guys in Sao Paulo, Brazil, gang members in New Zealand, and thousands of “ordinary” young people all over the world.
Gradually, my role in the band has grown, and today I am responsible for creatively developing the show, as well as singing, playing guitar, and acting. I have poured my heart and soul into making our performance the best it can be. It’s safe to say it’s been my life’s work so far.
A few years back, our band began to pray about how we could multiply our efforts to satisfy the increasing request for shows. Every year, we were turning down great opportunities because, as one band, we were limited in our time and resources. It was evident that we needed to replicate ourselves so that we could broaden our reach, and so we did.
For our next tour, we devised a plan for my team to go to Turkey, and for an entirely different group to simultaneously do eight days of shows in Poland. This sounded like a good idea, but a few weeks before it was to happen, our tour of Turkey was canceled. So instead of dividing and conquering, I was forced to hang out at our international center in Germany, while the other team took all of our gear, our amazing PA & lighting, and toured throughout Poland.
I remember following the “other” No Longer Music on social media and feeling frustrated. After all, why had I devote years of my life developing this show, only to watch somebody else perform it? I was angry but also embarrassed. This was supposed to be about serving God and reaching people.
This experience exposed something in my heart that had to change.
Though I have no doubt God had called me to be part of NLM, it was clear that I had let it become about me. My reaction demonstrated how my identity had become wrapped up in being the frontman and creative director of the band.
A year later, my son Macklin was born, and my heart was further tested. It was no longer possible to tour like I once had, and again I had to release my “life’s work” into someone else’s hands. And even now as I write this, an NLM tour is taking place in Europe and functioning great without me.
Mercifully, God has been patient with my misplaced identity and self-focused motives, and has given me the grace to surrender the band into His capable hands. I have learned (and am still learning) to put first things first, and I have been reminded that my value and satisfaction can only come from Him.
Paul reminds us that we were “…created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). I firmly believe that God has uniquely equipped each of us for specific tasks, and yet we need to be careful never to let our calling become an idol in our lives.
This can happen more subtly than you might think.
How do you know when things have gotten out of balance?
1) You are unable or unwilling to change what you do
God may ask you to change directions, positions, or tasks, but you refuse. This can be a clear sign that the specific role you have has become more critical to your identity than your relationship with God.
2) You don’t want to embrace new seasons in your life
I remember talking to a guy in a band who was several years older than me. I was telling him that my wife and I were trying decide when to have kids. He strongly warned me that starting a family would “ruin any plans I had to play rock n’ roll” and that I should not do it. I remember feeling so confused by this mentality. God has a plan for me for every season of life, and this includes having kids. I remember feeling that if God wanted me to have a family and give up music, then I would do it, because my trust is in Him.
3) You approach problems and measure success the way the world does
When things are out of balance and your value comes from what you do, then a lot is riding on the success of your vocation. Consequently, you can fall into the trap of looking to the world for your definition of progress. You strive and compete to be as good as or better than others because if you fail, you no longer feel important.
4) You are unable to celebrate the success of others
The person whose value comes from his or her work cannot celebrate the success of others, especially of those who are in a position similar to theirs. By contrast, the person whose identity is grounded in being a son or daughter of the King of the Universe can hold on loosely to the role they have. They can genuinely support others with similar roles, even celebrating their success.
How do you get back on track?
The solution is simple, but something we have to come back to again and again. The deep longings of our heart will never be satisfied by the things we do. You were created to have an intimate relationship with God. Only when you return to this simple truth and make it your primary pursuit, will you experience real peace and joy.
Finding your identity in God alone is incredibly freeing. No longer do you have to succeed to feel valuable. No longer is someone else’s success a threat to you. When you know that your worth is in God, you can pursue the tasks He’s set aside for you with passion, knowing that you are secure in Him.