This post is the second in a two part series. Click here to read part 1!
Last month, I wrote about the implications that being made in God's Image and Likeness have for your life. This week, I want to explore how this can play out in our career paths.
In music school, we typically find ourselves presented with specific career paths: classroom music education, orchestral performance, opera performance, musical theater, music therapy, collegiate education, etc. By all means, there are many people who find their calling within one of these traditional career paths, and find great joy and fulfillment in doing so. My dad is someone who immediately comes to mind when I think of someone who's followed one of these paths. He's been a high school band director for 27 years, and I know he's found a tremendous amount of fulfillment in many aspects of his work. Maybe you yourself are currently on a traditional career path and love it!
Obviously there isn't anything inherently wrong with following a traditional career path in music – and there are people who are certainly called to it. However, the option of carving your own path out exists, and it is good. Sometimes there are naysayers who will voice their opinions, whether it's directly or indirectly: it's too risky, there probably isn't a market for what you want to do, that's an easy route to being a starving artist. Or on the flip side, if you're putting aside career opportunities in order to be more present with your family, there may be voices accusing you of wasting your talents.
Let's cut out all the voices. Here's the deal. You and I have been made in the Image and Likeness of God, and this has a tremendous impact on our lives. I explored what this means on a broader level in my last article, but there is also a personal meaning to this for every one of us.
God is infinite, while we are limited creatures. In making us in His Image, God makes each one of us unique and unrepeatable. This sounds cheesy, but it's true.
God has created you to reflect a facet of Himself that nobody has ever reflected before, is currently reflecting, or will ever reflect in the future.
He has a particular call for your life that He hasn't, or is, or will ever call anyone else to. This is an incredibly beautiful reality! What your life looks like is different than mine, and praise be for that. The world would be terribly boring if we were all the same. St. Paul tells us that the mystical Body of Christ is made up of many parts, and this is just one way in which we can see this.
Yes, on the one hand, the possibilities of what we may be called to do with our lives can be overwhelming. But on the other hand, if we approach this with prayer, prudence, and a willingness to be open to God's grace, you may find that doors will open for you in unexpected ways. It's possible that God may want to take you on a journey you never expected to go on.
In Scripture, we are constantly being cautioned against having hardened hearts. Why the heart? Because the heart is where God desires to dwell, and if our hearts are like stone, we will not be able to let Him inside. Think about a stone for a moment. Are they hollow? No! Are they easy to open? No! You have to crack open a stone with another stone. Or a hammer. Or something harder than the stone. Unfortunately, sometimes a heart is so hardened that the only way it can possibly be opened is for it to be cracked open by something else hard: tragedy, injury, heartbreak, etc. But there's an easier way that we can go about this: letting God's grace dissolve the stoniness and transform our hearts into a dwelling place for the Lord to enter and remain in close relationship with each one of us. Original sin – and even its effects – harden our hearts. But our God is a God of the living, and He wants to transform our stony hearts into living hearts of flesh.
To share an abbreviated example from my own life, I had my heart so set on becoming an orchestral flutist that my heart became hardened to any other possibility the Lord might have in store for me. In fact, it was so hardened that God allowed me to experience debilitating hand injuries that forced me to literally put down my flute, look around me, and explore new areas of music that I'd previously written off. My musical career now looks like teaching piano and flute to fifteen kids between the ages of seven and fifteen as a part-time gig, and I couldn't be happier. I genuinely love teaching beginning to early intermediate lessons, and what's even cooler is that I get to teach music history to my one high school student in addition, which is a topic that I'm super passionate about. And what's even more awesome is the Lord helped me to rediscover my other talents that I'd either neglected or hadn't discovered yet, and now I'm using additional skill sets outside of music to round out my income. My life is full yet incredibly fulfilling – and it doesn't look anything the way I once had envisioned as the only way to happiness and fulfillment.
Regardless of what kind of career path, traditional or non-traditional, that you're following or seeking to follow, I'd like to share a few short thoughts with you that I learned while having my own heart "broken open" in terms of my career:
A prayer I learned after my hand injury diagnoses that I've continued to keep in my heart is "Lord, unclench my fists." I truly think this is a prayer every person of faith should keep in their hearts. How many times do we have our fists clenched so tightly around our wants and wishes that we refuse to let anything else in – including God? Yet it is only in God that we will ultimately find true happiness and fulfillment in, and all other things – even our deepest dreams and desires – will fall short.
Remember that God is good, and He has a good plan for your life. This doesn't mean it will always be comfortable. What is good is not always comfortable. In fact, sometimes it's quite the opposite! But God does not allow anything to happen to us that He will ultimately not allow for greater good to happen. I know that this can be difficult to believe at times, especially when the pain that's been allowed is unimaginable or unthinkable. And yet God never permits evil for evil's sake. He is good, and this means He doesn't toy with our lives or ignore what's happening to us. Rather, He calls us to pick up our crosses and follow Him. We have to follow Him. And He led by example, taking up His cross and suffering for the sake of the whole world. He suffers when we suffer, and He rejoices when we rejoice.
It may be tempting to leave your Catholic values at the door when it comes to your career, but this will only hurt you in the long run. I could give you a long list of examples. You can probably think of a long list of examples. Practicing what you believe is not always easy in this culture to begin with, let alone many parts of the music scene. However, while falling into the temptation of putting your values to one side when it comes to your work may lead to short-term success, it will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction and a lack of fulfillment in the long run. God created your heart for a specific mission on this earth. Leaving Him out of your career will only hurt you in the long run. Reject temptation, embrace God's grace, and practice good habits faithfully when it comes to the small, ordinary tasks and situations you face. This will allow you to practice heroic virtue when the time comes.
There is so much more to write and share on this topic, but I'll wrap it up here for now. I hope this can be helpful to you in discerning the Lord's will for your life and integrating your career with your life!
God bless, Cecilia