When you experience an involuntary emotional response, whether positive or negative, it is often a clue. You have stumbled onto something that will lead you toward or away from your destiny. It’s important to pay attention.
For example, not many people know I majored in music for my first two years of college. I played guitar, piano, and bass. Music was my life. It was all I ever thought about.
For my junior year, I transferred from my small junior college to Baylor University. I was excited, because the music school was legendary. But I quickly discovered that I was just one aspiring musician in a sea of extraordinary players.
Giving in to Fear
The competition scared me. By the end of the first semester I threw in the towel, switched majors, and sold my instruments. I essentially kissed music good-bye.
I thought I was being “practical.” But it was mostly about fear.
I quickly refocused my energy on other things. I discovered new passions, including my love of books and learning. This eventually led to a very satisfying career in the book publishing industry.
But something was lost.
Over the years, I occasionally played the guitar or the piano. But it was rare. I just didn’t allow myself to go there. In fact, I haven’t owned a guitar since college, though I have bought a couple for my children.
Last week, my daughter, Madeline, and her husband Shawn came over for dinner. Madeline brought her guitar and asked if I could help her learn a song by the artist Mree. It was in an unusual tuning, and she couldn’t figure it out.
We worked on it for about ten minutes and determined the artist was using an “open D tuning.” We didn’t learn the whole song, but we played what we knew for Gail and Shawn. (I still had cheap guitar at the house that one of my other daughters had abandoned years ago.)
When Madeline started singing, I cried.
The emotion surprised me. Something was resonating within me at a very deep level. I sensed something in my heart had just woken up after a very long sleep.
Reclaiming Something Lost
That evening, I started shopping online for guitars. The whole while a little voice in my head kept saying, This is silly. You’re not going to buy a guitar. It’s been too long. You’ve forgotten too much. Besides, you don’t have the time.
But I persisted.
As we were getting ready for bed, I spoke to Gail about it. She said, “You need to pay attention to this, Mike. I don’t know why, but you need to buy a guitar. I feel strongly about this.” (You gotta love that in a wife.)
The next morning, Madeline and I met at the Guitar Center in Nashville. It’s a giant superstore for musicians. It has every model of guitar you could imagine for sale. Frankly, it was overwhelming.
However, we met a very knowledgable, low-key salesman named Rob in the acoustic guitar department. He gave us a helpful overview and explained what had transpired in the thirty-plus years I had been out of the market.
I then sat down and played about a dozen different guitars. So much came back to me. My brain was flooded with memories. I reconnected with a joy I hadn’t known in years.
After almost an hour, I pulled a Martin HD-28V from the wall and sat back down to play it. I immediately teared up. Again, the emotion surprised me. I knew this was “the one.”
Just to be sure, I tried several other guitars, testing each of them against the Martin. However, nothing else sounded as sweet or felt as comfortable as it. So I took a deep breath, looked at Madeline for assurance, and bought it!
I played so much that first day, my fingers were blistered. I have had a blast just getting acquainted with the instrument and relearning some of what I had forgotten.
More Than We Know
Honestly, I don’t know where all this is going. I have no illusions about playing professionally, but I do think it is important to pay attention to the resonance of this moment. There is something here for me to learn and experience.
But it’s not just me. I believe each of us is more than we know.
One of the ways we figure this out is by noticing what stirs us emotionally. This is a step in moving toward our destiny and becoming all God made us to be.
Question: Where have you recently experienced unexpected emotion? What have you learned from it?