“Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
I used to associate these verses in Mark almost exclusively with those who entered religious life. I used to reflect deeply on the personal sacrifices those men and women make daily to serve God and bring about His glory. I knew from a young age that I was not being called to religious life, and a period of serious discernment in my teenage years confirmed this, so I largely viewed this passage as a call to pray for those who were called to religious life, and I didn’t try to find any personal relevance hidden within those words.
Yet, when I went away to college and started to experience the realities of life as a professional musician, my perspective changed pretty quickly. My options for music school were limited, and I knew that if I was truly going to fulfill God’s vocational call for my professional life, then I needed to make the difficult decision to attend college very far away from family and friends. I didn’t know anybody I’d be going to school with, and I wasn’t going to be driving distance from my parents, I’d have to fly back and forth for visits. I was struck with the awareness that I would be missing major life events, and I did- birthdays, holidays, and even deaths.
Moving to college was full of mixed emotions for me, because I was thrilled to be pursuing the strong and obvious musical calling that God had placed on my heart, but I was also keenly aware of everything that I was leaving behind. It was not an easy four years, but it prepared my heart for what was to come.
I have always tried my best to pray for the gift of clear discernment. When my time in college was coming to an end, I discerned and applied to many different programmes. I thought perhaps it was time to stick close to my established communities, so I applied to schools near my family, and on the east coast, where I now had strong connections from college. Yet, God closed every door that I expected Him to open, and instead He revealed to me a door that I hadn’t seriously considered. I was, of course, aware that the music career tends to take people all around the world, but imagine my shock when His Will took me to a whole new continent, in the middle of a global pandemic.
Yes, it’s true that I have had a lifelong love for Ireland, and I have always wanted to visit and build a relationship with my ancestral homeland, but NOT LIKE THIS. The future was so uncertain, in so many ways. I wanted the comforts I was used to- everything from being able to drive places, to understanding the subtleties of social expectations, and being surrounded by a culture that was my own and so much more. I was being asked to give up ALL of that at once?
In a sense, I suppose I knew what I was getting into. I’d had many conversations in college about the personal sacrifices required of musicians. I’ve heard countless stories about major life events and important personal milestones that were given up for the sake of attending a rehearsal or performance. I’d been told, in no uncertain terms, to prepare myself for those sacrifices as well. I’d reflected deeply, even shed a few tears, over the idea of missing weddings, funerals, birthdays, holidays, and pretty much every other sort of life event. I thought I had gotten a good understanding of what that was like during college, but this just seemed like a whole new level.
‘This is where music has brought me’, I thought to myself ‘and, more importantly, this is where God has brought me’. His Will was clear, no matter how much I tried to protest it. The bittersweetness of a musical vocation sunk deeply into my soul. How exciting, how beautiful, yet how immensely difficult!
I have clung closely to these verses in my 3 years living in Europe. I have undoubtedly missed more these last years that I did during the entirety of college, and I’ve experienced increasing homesickness for the first time in my life. I have struggled in ways I could have never foreseen or even imagined. I often ask God why He has kept me here so long.
Yet, even in a small and incomplete way, I understand. Amidst the struggle and hardship, I have grown in ways that I could not have grown had I stayed within my comfort zone. Some of that growth has been personal, some has been spiritual, and some has been professional. Despite these obvious positives, I know that my reward will be even greater in Heaven.
As human beings, we are called to seek God in whatever we do. As musicians, we are called to find Him in our music. Sometimes pursuing God in and through our music takes us in unexpected directions, to places far beyond our own comfort zones. In choosing the pursuit of holiness through music, we willingly accept increased difficulties in this life. But we do so knowing and trusting in God’s promise that our reward will be a hundred fold in the age to come.