Charles Hulin IV September 2013
“Make it your habit to pay close attention to yourself and your teaching.” I Timothy 4:16
Magic comes to us in many ways, and by “magic” I mean the energy-giving, life-driving aspects of our existence. I mean the romance that awakens and reawakens us to beauty. I mean the sparks of friendship between personalities that create joy and ease in relating.
At my current stage of life and career, I am discovering another kind of magic. I am blessed with the magic of living out my calling and purpose. I get to be a link in the inspiration process. Every day, receptive friends (my dear students at Southeastern University) allow me to convey messages to them about music and faith.
In this situation, I have both the faith and the experience to act with the expectation that certain things will occur if I keep moving ahead trusting God’s support and guidance. I know there will be excitement in the classroom and that genius will be developed in the studio.
At the beginning of this academic year, I had several curious dreams about driving in which friends made strange decisions regarding destiny as we journeyed together. This idea of a shared journey has become important to me.
On the road of life, we see the results of carelessness, lack of focus, and random occurrences that change lives forever. As we move forward, we become aware that there are wrecks all around, and sometimes, we see a disaster unfolding. Response is necessary and damage is likely. Perhaps we can pass around or through the pile-up. If not, we brace ourselves for impact. Maybe we can rescue the wounded, but the attempt is filled with peril.
All these crises can threaten to halt or divert the pursuit of our calling. We need clear vision and simple engagement. We need efficiency in living out our purpose. We need not to spew pollution (whining, criticism, insults . . .) but to remember what our fuel is – powerful light from the Spirit. We need to make the most of that clean burning.
In my best moments, I think on the example of my father, a man I saw drive many, many miles on this road. The touch of Jesus on his life was apparent in the fact that he never seemed to knowingly say or do anything that would keep him from being able to minister to the people around him. He added to that restraint the doing of good deeds, especially to “the least of these.” He gravitated toward those overlooked in any setting. Sometimes his heart was broken for the God who was overlooked, and sometimes, his own ministry was also not received.
As we seek to minister within our musical settings, we would do well to reconsider the words of I Timothy 3 regarding the qualifications of ministers. Too often, discussions of this passage become entangled in political wrangling and never get around to a serious consideration of the words it contains that should be shaping the character of anyone in a position of influence. According to the Williams translation, we are to be “temperate, sensible, well-behaved, hospitable, skillful in teaching, not addicted to strong drink, not pugnacious, gentle and not contentious, not avaricious.” We might add from the second chapter that the ideal is for those in authority to lead “peaceful, quiet lives in perfect piety and seriousness.”
The vast majority of the time, I am too focused on what I view to be the details of my work to take these words about lifestyle and ministry to heart. But today, one of these words from God keeps sounding in my soul: gentleness.
We musicians need to learn gentleness because it is not unusual for rage to poison our art and sever us from nurturing relationships. Why should we maintain an angry art? It cannot sustain us. But learning to be with ourselves and with others can.
For many of us, the process of acquiring our craft brought with it a hushing of conscience when our own teaching methods, usually unexamined, are not focused on the whole human before us. We need the reminder that gentleness is the right way to treat a person regardless of our feelings or the setting in which we encounter them.
How often do we tell our students what their spirit and musicality mean to us? How often do we express our joy in working with them? It is probably the case that many students assume that we disapprove something about their efforts, or worse yet, something about them, if we do not indicate otherwise.
And are we assuming that God is busy disapproving us? Might not God be taking joy in working with us? I think Genesis 1 establishes God not only as the great creator but also as the great approver calling each created thing “good.” God even called us human beings “very good!”
I think treating people well brings about its own magic; it brings healing and integration.
Students (and everyone else) need permission and freedom to be who they are. To provide this, most performer-teachers probably need to develop a personal presence that is more accompanimental in nature. We need to maintain a non-competitive transparency that does not fill our students’ hearts and minds with the hectic sense of us always barking at them.
I think our goal ought to be to support them in becoming who the Spirit is calling them to be. We need to be quiet and to foster calm so both student and teacher can learn who they are. With that knowledge, we can be sensitive to the makeup of our students’ personalities. That sensitivity can pave the way for asking who the Spirit is calling our students to be. We need to support them in that growth, but we are not in charge of it.
All of this and more is what I think gentleness entails.
Today, September 21st, is World Peace Day, a fact that passes with little fanfare in many quarters. I invite you on this special day to join me in taking some step towards creating a local community of gentleness, a community in which it is agreed that the mandate for gentleness trumps any ideology that exempts us from loving. It seems to me that we have been, and are being, inundated with so much contentiousness that we need the momentum of community to develop a genius for gentleness. My community of gentleness will be sure to pray for you and yours.