Round About

I stood at the side of the stage and stared up through the scaffold into the blue sky. Grabbing the bars, I pulled and stretched my body to make room in my lungs for air.

   Normally this was an anxious moment. The few minutes that precede a concert are notoriously plagued by scattered attention and last-minute panics. This time was different. There was a groundswell of confidence, a sense of inevitable success that everyone — even the audience — seemed to feel.

   For once I wanted to hold this moment, to savor the strength. I noticed everything I could and recorded it in my mind. I listened to the random notes of the band tuning up, heard the final instructions for the stage crew, and caught eye-glance encouragement from the stage manager. I could see that many in the crowd were standing . . . waiting. Why? They had never stood and waited this way for me before. Somehow they knew too.

   "How's that sound to you?" the monitor mixer questioned me about my guitar equalization. "A little more on the high end,

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please," I replied, more out of amusement than out of necessity. I could play my guitar today even if it sounded like a banjo through a broken speaker. There was enough power and purpose in my heart to do this concert if everything went wrong, yet enough confidence to know that nothing would.

   Returning to the scaffold, I threw back by head once again and stared into the sky as if to drink in wholeness from my Creator. Every fiber of my being seemed to know: this was what I was made for. A smile that just would not go away formed on my face.

   Suddenly it seemed to me that I had lived my life backwards. Once I had been old, knowing all the answers. I had even known the answers before the questions were asked — like the game show contestant punching the button before the host could even complete the question. Now I realized that I must have punched the button on lots of people, and I felt a twinge of remorse. I had thought myself wise first, instead of last. As a young man, I had held back, not wanting to lay out my pearls before swine. I had been a wise old kid, thinking that wisdom could somehow precede experience.

   Now I felt young, reckless, energetic — anxious to live a life that I had only commented on for so long. I felt cheated out of youth, but I was determined not to let my life pass without enjoying its full expression. The answers, however true, had only served to trap me inside my quiet, theoretical self. I had finally become aware of something more important than being right: it was called being awake, being alive, being in touch with my heart, with my spirit, and with humanity. Now I would rather be wrong and know this than be right and be a stone.

   As I watched a wisp of cloud pass over the scaffold, I know I had found both — I was awake and I was right.

   Suddenly my guitar was plugged in and on my shoulder. I was introduced and the crowd was up. From the first chord to the last, the power of love and truth shot from my heart to the people — from heart to heart — I knew I'd made the connection.

   For years I had been a Christian, but I had not always known what that meant. The pain of reaching out, the risk of growing, the open gashes of truth had finally culminated in this moment.

   For so long my Christianity had touched my head and delivered the answers like dinner on a plate. Now it had touched my

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heart: the music had become one with me, and what I shared that day was not a message — though there was one — or mere lists of answers — though there were many. What I shared in that moment with five thousand people was the essence of a man seeking after God, truth, and wholeness. The music was in me and I was in the music. I knew now that this was all that was to be expected from me — no more and, most certainly, no less.

   As I sang, my eyes were filled with wonder, with tears, with stinging sweat, with other eyes, with joy, and with laughter. For even though I had known this was going to happen, I couldn't possibly have known that it was going to be as wonderful as this. And as I connected with my music, I also connected with 5,000 people who simply couldn't stand still.

   What do you know! Real Christians do dance . . . after all!

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