Friday, October 28, 2016

Music and Bridled Passions

Things have been pretty tough for me lately. I definitely am no Job when it comes to the challenges I face, but they are certainly difficult for me as a person. As a result, my last few posts have been sad and depressing, and while I started this blog as a sort of coping mechanism (I love writing), I don't ever want to come off as a perpetual griper, complainer, or pessimist. I'm hoping this post, that I have had a few drafts for, will help change the tone of my other recent posts, and reveal a bit more about who I am and what has crafted me and my character. Here goes:

Passions are funny things. Some people follow theirs with complete carelessness and abandon. Others view passions as things to be scorned and trodden under foot, whether their own or someone else's.

I believe that God could not be considered extremist under any circumstances. Take any two characteristics that are polar opposites, those that appear to contradict one other, and there is some beautiful place that acknowledges a balance and reconciles the two. Justice and mercy, to introduce a prime example.

Is there a reconciliation to be found between overt carelessness and deathly rigidity in regards to one's passions?

One ancient American prophet counseled his son, "...and also see that ye bridle all your passions." the prophet Alma isn't saying to "let the dogs out" (whatever that means--I just know it has some extra connotation to it), nor to squash, smash, crush, exterminate, or extinguish our passions, either. And what a beautiful image the word "bridle" adds to the idea! Perhaps this passion thing has some use to it after all...

Would it be fair to add that we ought to seek to do with it as the Lord pleases? After all, if we were to bridle our passions as we would bridle a horse before going to battle, wouldn't it be self-defeating to ride out to fight for the wrong side of the conflict?

Now, these concepts are rife with applications and implications geared toward same-sex attraction. However, this is the story of the love affair I have had with a lady called Music, and the things we have accomplished in our short but all-too rewarding time together, as she is the one who taught me these things first.

I was considerably blessed to attend a junior high and high school that both had impressive music programs. Throughout those six years, I was thoroughly involved with the choral programs, which I enjoyed immensely and which taught me a great deal about musicianship. I was in my junior year in high school; it was December, and the elite choir that I pertained to was particularly busy, with a performance nearly every day of the week. There was another student in that choir by the name of Natalie Miller (I'm not afraid to use her actual name here) that was playing her instrument of choice alongside another choir. And to listen to her play! It was breathtaking without fail. In that particular instant, I thought to myself, "I want to be able to play like that one day."

Of course, I never thought it would ever be more than a hobby. I was given an early birthday present of an adult's manual to learning this instrument, and although my mom is quite versed in this instrument, I set about teaching myself. I made a considerable amount of progress in the next two years, but not so much that I didn't struggle with more than just the simplest of music.

Then I reported on my mission. The nature of the demographics in which I served meant my musical ability, albeit very limited by this time, was quite heavily relied on. I felt just a little inadequate, making quite a few mistakes when I was called upon to perform. Every Monday, our preparation day, I would be fortunate to be able to practice for two hours. So I would kneel and pray at the beginning of each practice session that the Lord would magnify my abilities and consecrate that time, that I might not drive away the Spirit when the need for me arose.

Over the course of many months, I began to see considerable progress from those practice sessions. At some point the thought occurred to me, "If I am advancing at this rate in just two hours a week or less...

"What would happen if I practiced forty hours a week?"

Then this mighty passion awoke inside of me. It made me feel like a dog kennel trying to contain a raging lion inside. This was no appetite I could sate in two hours a week, nor two hours a day. This voracious, newfound passion born inside of me wanted to practice for hours and hours and hours on end, for years. I found myself composing music in my head during personal study time, triggered by anything that made me think of practicing.

It was as clear to me as if God had appeared to me in person and told me:

My life's calling was to be a musician.

The difficult part came when I had to focus on the work at hand, restraining the desire that devoured me, for the remainder of my missionary service, which was more than year at that time. It was somewhat comical when I was asked by companions, members, and fellow missionaries what I had ambition to do, telling them that I had intended to do something I had practically no experience in doing.

It occurred to me that the Lord could have revealed this massive bombshell to me after I came home. I came to the conclusion that the timing was indicative of His trust in me--I had poured my entire heart and soul into learning the mission language (my favorite of them all), preaching the Gospel, working in harmony with my companions, and virtually everything else. And I continued to do so. I may have never had that revelation had I not worked to be so diligent, even in the years preceding my missionary service--I might be doing something entirely different by now.

Despite the overwhelming desire I felt to indulge in my newfound desire, I gave the people I served my all until the day I returned home.

Then the ever-constant practice ensued. I no longer had to contain the floodgates; the dam was allowed to burst. I was faced by so much doubt--extended family, close family, even my own--surrounding the essential impossibility of pursuing what they considered improbable, even had I possessed years more of experience. Over the first few months, I went through a great deal to uncover the answers. I eventually found a niche, and progressively made a living from there on, and I currently make a living this way.

This all has taught me a great deal. How God could trust Nephi, son of Helaman, with the sealing power. About the marvelous blessings that come when we follow Alma's admonition to his son Shiblon. And the depth of Nephi's (son of Lehi) experience when commanded to build a ship with no tools nor lumber on hand, an unfamiliar blueprint, and no prior experience. I feel like I've set sail on that very same ship, aimed for the promised land, notwithstanding I've still yet to complete the barge. Certainly there is a time, place, and manner in which the Lord wishes for us to put our talents to use.

Without doubt He knows best

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