NOTEworthy September 13

Ave Maria – Javier Busto

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

I will admit it. I am jealous of Javier Busto. Not because he wrote this beautiful piece. Not because he has a great Spanish accent. I am jealous of Javier Busto, because Javier Busto taught himself music as a hobby while practicing as a medical doctor and still composed a piece this beautiful.

His story makes me think of all of my friends who either pursued music professionally and decided to go a different direction. In music school, it’s a surprisingly common story to hear of people who loved music as a hobby, but when it became their profession, the joy of it went away. Conversely, I now talk to friends who I have worked with or studied with that have taken on different career paths, and they will often talk about how nice it is to just make music for fun, without the pressure of it needing to be “good enough.”

The truth is I’ve felt that same pressure to succeed weighing on my back musically, especially when I was training to be a professional opera singer – “If I sing out of tune on this gig, then how will I get the next one?” “If my voice cracks on this high note, the director will see and not cast me again.”

I was lucky that I don’t really feel the same pressure conducting as I did singing and have found a sort of niche in music that feels generally free of those crushing expectations.

Expectations are a tricky thing. Almost invariably, they exist in every part of our life, but certain expectations seem to weigh more heavily on our psyche and wellbeing than others. There is an expectation on me as a grown adult that I shouldn’t pick my nose anymore, but I don’t lose sleep over that. There is an expectation while driving that I stay in my lane and don’t hit other cars, but I don’t drive white knuckled down Atlantic (maybe Capital..) even though the stakes of following those expectations are incredibly high.

Often, I think the weight of expectations has less to do with the external repercussions of failure than the internal dissonance of not measuring up to our own bar. But too often, our own bar is higher than necessary or even realistic.

We do this with faith, too.

In fact, we always have. In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees had so many laws (expectations) that Jesus Himself broke their laws on many occasions (Luke 13:10-17, Mark 3:1-6). We, like the Pharisees, strangle all of the fun and joy out of following Christ by defining our worth by how well we meet certain expectations. And this reliance on expectations in our spiritual life leads to an overly serious spiritual life where the most positive feeling we can achieve is relief that the expectations were met. Not joy. And certainly not fun.

But we were not called to be computers, following a binary system of good and bad until we eventually die and hopefully we have more 1’s than 0’s.

We are called to be doers and makers. In the Great Commission, Jesus calls us to be doers when He tells us to go and show people what Godly love looks like (Matthew 28:16-20), and in our very creation, God calls us to be makers when He makes us in His image (Genesis 1:26-28).

I would even argue that Jesus was funny! “How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4). “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24). Can’t you just picture a chuckle from the disciples as Jesus says this?!

Faith can be significant without being serious.

This is very very good news!! Because not only is the doing of good and the making of a better world important – it is the fun stuff, too.