A new friend of mine, Mitch, asked me to write a guest blog on his site, Create Grace, for his Music Changed Me series. At the conference where I met Mitch, I remember walking in and genuinely trying to decide how much of myself and my vocation I would share with these people. After going back and forth, I decided that if I can’t own my choices then I’ll never be able to fully live into them. Making the decision to choose to be vulnerable is always scary, but it’s almost always worth the risk. Thankfully, it was the first time that I felt complete and unconditional acceptance by my former tribe; the importance of which cannot be overstated. Mitch stood out as on who created space for grace, not only by his interests, but by his very nature. Here’s the piece I wrote about leaning into the vulnerability of our life choices.
The lyrics to Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” filled my car somewhere between Dallas and Texarkana.
I was on my way from my now home, a tiny West Texas town, to the home I had known my whole life in Tennessee.
I’ve encountered this song before; the first encounter, in 1998, left me unchanged.
But this was early in 2013, and I was more than half way through my first year in seminary, listening to a mixed CD a friend had made.
Much of the formal focus that first year was on vocation, but personally I was unpacking all the emotional and spiritual baggage that I had hauled to Texas without realizing it. In that first year of seminary I discovered that I fit better theologically, socially, and liturgically in the Episcopal Church than I do in the denomination in which I was raised, and when I honestly considered vocation, I was drawn to the priesthood.
I have a passion for faith and religion, and a large part that’s because of the people in my life; family and friends who have surrounded me with prayer, faith, and a love for God and his people shaped who I was becoming.
Given the bounds of some religious standards though, sharing my vocation and denominational shift, would cause tension and for some, would be the end of our relationship.
You see, this 900 mile drive home wasn’t just to see people whom I love and miss so dearly, in many ways about breaking their hearts and shattering the view they had of me so that I could give them a chance to fully know me. It was about taking the risk of having them reject me for my choices and it was about the willingness to be loved despite the boundaries that our religions draw. It was genuinely one of the scariest, hardest things I have ever chosen to do.
When the twangy start to “Wide Open Spaces” came on, I laughed. This mix that my friend had made was in preparation for this hard week, it was a beautiful arch of songs about coming into your own and making hard choices, and then Dixie Chicks? Ha. No thank you, I’m not 14 anymore.
Just as I was about to skip through the track, I was caught by the opening lyric:
Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own.
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone
I was frozen by the relevance in this seemingly silly song from the late 90s.
Many will precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed.
She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes
She needs new faces
She knows the high stakes
This is where I began to weep.
If I had know the amount of challenges and changes I would go through moving to Texas, starting seminary, and discerning my vocation, there is no way I would have had the courage to embrace the wide open spaces.
In many ways, when I moved to West Texas it wasn’t an active choice to make dramatic life changes, but it truly was the place where who I dreamed I would be has and is becoming my reality. Even though I couldn’t have predicted that two and a half years after encountering this song for the second time that I would be so convicted of my choices.
It is the honesty, not the lyrical depth, that drew me to this song. It speaks to something to which I couldn’t identify before experiencing it. It speaks to the courage it takes to leave what you’ve known to be who God is calling you to be. It speaks to the strength of those who let you go and choose to love you anyway.
It is precisely those Wide Open Spaces, whether they are metaphorical or the literal wide-open space that is West Texas, which grant you the opportunity to discover who you were all along.
It is in the space to make mistakes where we realize our weaknesses and our strengths; where we realize that, more than we could have conceived, we are so much stronger and so much weaker than we knew.
Everyone has a closet.
Whether it is full of vestments or rainbows, and this song helped me accept that taking the risk and giving yourself the chance and the space to make big mistakes is always worth it, especially when it allows you more honesty, love, and sincerity between yourself, those you love, and God.