This past weekend, I got to sit in with Central Presbyterian’s evening service. Eric Stiller is a professional bass player who leads the music there. Eric hires musicians who he plays with from the local jazz community to play in the band, building bridges for the gospel through music. He asked me to come play with them sometime, and so this weekend I had the opportunity to get some perspective of what it’s like to be out of the director’s chair and back into a follower role.
I have to confess that my sin was exposed in a vicious way through the experience. I felt desperately insecure (a feeling I often get around accomplished jazz musicians.) I began to loose any confidence that I could make competent musical decisions, so I started criticizing myself while repeatedly asking the other musicians to tell me exactly what to play. My insecurity twisted any affirmation into sounding fake or patronizing. I was amazed to hear myself saying or thinking some of the same things that I have become so tired of hearing from my teammates:
“I could be a lot better, but I just haven’t practiced enough.”
“I’m sorry for messing up that intro.”
“Is there anything that I should be doing differently?”
“You guys sound so great, I feel like I am making things sound worse.”
It is so irritating when musicians apologize for their perceived failings or constantly berate and criticize themselves, like the host who apologizes for his untidy house or the beautiful woman who is always complaining about her thighs or crow’s feet. I know that I have told other musicians who can’t overcome their insecurity to “just be yourself,” “don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” or “just play and let things happen.” But this weekend these kinds of platitudes just caused me to become more self-loathing and fearful.
Earlier that same day, Jesse Heirendt and I were musing about the days when we once played music in a state of fear and loathing. I told him that I have come to a point where I like the way I play, and I embrace the Gospel’s promises over my gifts. Then just a few hours later, I was sweating bullets over playing an F-blues (probably the most basic form in jazz) forgetting what happens in the 9th bar. The truth is that there is no sin that we grow out of or that is no longer a struggle. In my pride, I judge those musicians who struggle with insecurity, and yet that same insecurity is still there in my heart. I still struggle with living like an orphan despite my Father’s unfailing love.
Fear and Loathing in Clayton.