There was a book that came out, back in the late, optimistic, 80's, called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood. These days, of course, current economic reality has reduced that optimism to a shadow of its former self; a shadow many recent college graduates can no longer detect.
But I was reminded of that title this morning, reading Barbara Brown Taylor's book, An Altar in the World. In it she describes her attempts while in seminary to ascertain God's call for her; attempts made high on a rusty fire escape she would climb to pray for guidance.
And in the end, in response to her persistent plea of "What am I supposed to do with my life?" the response she received was simply this: "Anything that pleases you." Which makes me think of that wonderful, seminal passage from Romans (8:28): "All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose."
Having once been married to a street musician, I know it's not an easy life; that we were often scraping to make ends meet. But I also know he loved his work, and it brought joy to him and to those who heard him, just as I suspect these two New Orleans musicians find joy in their work, even as I know it brings joy to those of us who hear it.
I think that 80's book, despite my natural skepticism, cast a long shadow for me. Over the years that title has continued to encourage me to do what I love -- as has that passage from Romans. But some part of me is still hooked into the theory that money is somehow a sign of God's favor; that if I were really "doing it right," money -- or at least recognition -- would be the inevitable result. And, as a result, I keep getting distracted by possibilities ("maybe if I tried THIS it would sell") and find it hard to just stay true to that God-inspired internal prompt of doing what I love.
Which doesn't mean I should drop everything and run after pleasure. What I think it DOES mean is that I need to honor the rewards that DO ensue from the work I do; the calendars I create every year around this time, the exhibits I'm hanging in hospitals and coffee shops and athletic clubs. It doesn't matter if things don't sell: what matters is that I enjoy the work, and others derive pleasure from its results. If a picture honors the beauty in something someone passes every day, so that they stop and take a look next time -- that's God's work, too.