“And this is Kelly,” she said.
“Oh, the songwriter! You write such great songs!” her husband said, extending his hand.
“Oh that was a long time ago,” I said. “I used to be a songwriter.”
We went back and forth in one of those polite exchanges but I walked away a bit fazed. No one has called me a songwriter in years.
Some years back I had the exquisite experience of standing before a congregation and singing with them words that had been birthed in pages of my journal. I got to experience the process of having an idea and sitting at a piano alone with it, or spending hours with a friend changing chord progressions and consulting a thesaurus. We would debate minute theological concepts, things far beyond what we could understand at the time, and let all of these things boil down to a reduction.
Then would come the rehearsal when it came to life – pure wonder in a flat notebook page exploding into bass lines and choral parts and electric guitar lead lines. Then would come the Sunday morning when the people in the congregation would sing those words, those words that had been so lovingly and carefully chosen, that melody line that had been debated and changed over and over. It was an awesome thing to put words into the mouths of other people.
It was a season of my life I couldn’t fully appreciate at the time. It was pure magic, it was that first hill of the roller coaster over and over, it was my first taste of people I didn’t know well coming to me and telling me that I had made a positive impact on their lives.
And I remember at one point asking one of my pastors if this was it. Would I ever do anything more than write songs? Had I reached the best too early? Had I gotten my moment of incredible experience, excitement, and that was it for me? Had I peaked at 21?
During that season of songwriting my pastor would remind me over and over again where my identity was. I was a 20 year old kid in front of a church of 2000 people – I was getting a lot of attention. He kept grabbing my feet and pulling them back down to earth. “Who are you outside of this?” He would ask me.
And then the season changed. It changed the way seasons do. Slowly but suddenly.
And then I moved to Paris and nobody knew me as a songwriter. In fact just a few months ago I sat down with our worship leader in Paris and she mentioned songwriting and I told her I could help her. She had no idea. Nobody in that world knows me as a songwriter.
That piece of my identity, that person that I was, fully, for a season – changed. And I had to let it change. Because I needed to grow. I needed to step into a new person, a new reality, a new place of ministry. And there are times that I grieve the loss of that season and I wonder if I could still do it today.
I didn’t know at 20 years old how much more I was capable of. I was good at what I did, but I am glad that season transitioned into other things. Because if I had stayed in that season forever, I never would have discovered myself as writer or preacher or mentor. I never would have learned things about myself that are just as crucial to my identity as that songwriter identity was.
And I think sometimes we tend to look back on great seasons of our lives and want to be back in them. We can bow to the temptation that the previous season was our truest self, and that nothing to come will ever compare. But the truth is, new things always come. New selves – new identities that we take on. And they are good things. New things. It doesn’t mean the old seasons are wasted; they are simply added to the tapestry of who we have been and who we are and what our life is.
I am not a songwriter anymore. But that songwriter is still in me somewhere. I am still her. I feel her when I listen to music with great lyrics or when a chord progression moves me. I see her when I write a great cadence into my sermon or spend a moment searching my head for just the right word when I’m writing. And once in a great while I encounter someone who still recognizes her. She is still part of me. But new and great things have come along since then, and I am always grateful that life is seasons, and there is always something new to discover about ourselves and new things to become.
And you – no matter how much this season is your identity, no matter how much the ‘now’ is reflective of who you were created to be – the season will change eventually. That’s what seasons do. And if you wear your coat in the summer or wear your sandals in the winter you will be sorry. But the beauty of life, the beauty of chasing the identity God has for you, is that there is always something to discover. There is always a beautiful new chapter to open and read. There are always, always, new worlds to discover and new gifts to open and what an adventure we all are on. Don’t waste it trying to hold on to the past.