One bit of advice I frequently hear the judges on American Idol give the contestants is “be yourself and make the song you sing your own.” Now obviously this is something that is much easier said than done, and a pious platitude we’ve all heard over and over again. Shakespeare said it much more eloquently “To thine one self be true.” And Paul the Apostle probably said it best. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) It’s interesting that the word “masterpiece” here comes from the Greek word poiema from which we derive our word poem.
Now I believe that discovering the song God has created us to sing is more an art than a science. It grows more out of our relationship with Him than some calculated self effort.
When I was in my mid 40s, I began to wrestle with a growing discontent with my life and ministry. With God’s help I realized that my struggles stemmed from the fact that I was sacrificing my unique interests and strengths by subjecting myself to a conformity I wasn’t created or gifted to do.
In the fall of 1993 I was driving with Susan to a ministry meeting in Southern Minnesota, a meeting I did not want to attend. We happened to be scanning the radio dial and came upon a James Taylor song that was playing. Both Susan and I have always been JT fans so we tuned in and listened. The song we were listening to happened to be an oldie entitled Riding on a Railroad. When I heard the following lyrics it was like the voice of the Lord speaking to me ala Balaam and his donkey.
Time to time I tire of the life that I’ve been leading
Town to town, day by day
There’s a man up here who claims to have his hands upon the reins.
There are chains upon his hands and he’s riding upon a train.
We are riding on a railroad, singing some else’s song
Forever standing by the cross road. Take a side and step along.
Those words so accurately described what I had been feeling that I began to weep. That was it, I was so unhappy because I felt like I was trapped riding on a railroad SINGING SOMEONE ELSE’S SONG – NOT MY OWN SONG. To sing ones own song is to sing the song God has created you to sing. And the lyrics were right – I was STANDING BY A CROSS ROAD and challenged to “TAKE A SIDE.”
I knew is was time to make a decision. Either I needed to be true to the unique way God had created me or else. That was it. I made the decision then and there that given the opportunity and direction from the Lord that I would take the plunge and get off the train I was riding on.
Within a year’s time the vision to start Bridgewood was planted in my heart and we launched it in the fall of 1994. It is without a doubt the most satisfying and rewarding thing I have ever done! And that is primarily because I was empowered by God to be able to play to my strengths and sing the song He wrote specifically for me to sing.
Do you feel like you are riding on a railroad singing someone else’s song? Are you standing by a cross road? If so, you can be sure that God already has something uniquely created for you to step into that will better use the strengths and abilities He has given you.
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