It’s the holiday season…so there are holiday concerts, and I attended and / or participated in several last week. Friday night found us in the high school auditorium for the combined chorus and band event. It was lovely, with nice performances and a couple of transcendent artistic moments. Smaller groups and solos were interspersed with the larger ones, and toward the end of the evening the jazz band reappeared, after having opened the show.
A sudden scurrying and fidgeting on stage seemed to delay the next piece. We were already about 85 minutes into the affair, and the crowd grew a little restless with the delay. The director appeared and it became obviously that there was an issue with the bass guitar.
They poked at the amp, at the guitar; the musician kept plunking the strings to no avail. The instrument was silent.
The director walked to the microphone.
“Is Tony Stoddard in the house?”
That’s my husband, by the way; my bass-playing, music-store-owning, can-fix-anything husband. Who didn’t hear the question.
“Hello – is Tony Stoddard in the house? Is Tony here?”
He sat in silence – probably stunned silence – beside me. He’s really an introvert, and being called out in front of 600 people is not a comfortable spot for him.
So I got in gear; “YES!” I yelled. “HE’S RIGHT HERE!!!”
The director smiled. “Tony – any chance you have an extra bass in your car?”
And I’ll just stop with that – although the punch line is no, he didn’t have a bass in his car – because, as he muttered next to me, “It’s 38 degrees. Who would have a bass in the car?” But Nick just wanted to solve the problem, and so he thought of Tony.
I basked in that moment, briefly. My husband married me when I was Beth Brawley, mother of five outstanding kids, all close in age, all following me around like ducklings. I was highly visible in one of the largest churches in our county. My identity was in that reputation as much as it was anything else. My narrative supported my striving and I knew who I was and how I was known. In fact, it took me several years to change my name – to take his surname – after the wedding, because I clung to that Beth Brawley identity.
It was important to me. It meant survivor. It meant achiever. It meant redeemed and forgiven and born again. My name represented who I was– and the pride, ego, and self-importance that was entangled it that identity; because, of course, as a follower of Jesus, I also found my identity in Christ. That’s a basic part of Christian faith, this notion that you are a child of God – that you are loved by Him, created by Him, given purpose by Him.
But I’m human – it’s as simply as that – and I fought hard to stand on my own two feet, even as I knew that God had led and guided and protected me all the way. Yet there was still a huge sense of self and safety tied up in my name.
What a work has been done in me; how I have changed, and I can testify to you that there are ways in which we are made and remade by the very real slings and arrows of authentic relationships. Because what I established on my own when it came to identity has been reworked mightily in relationship – specifically, this own with my husband of almost seven years.
It’s not without challenges, for sure. We are older. There are children to parent and guide. There are issues of finances and such. But one of the most beautiful and unexpected part of this marriage and this friendship has been the gentle persuasion to relax my grip on proving myself, and instead to slip my tiny hand into his giant paw and be with him.
These days, surprisingly, I’d rather hear his name called than my own. I am grateful to be sitting at his side, or even standing slightly behind him, in his shadow.
For somebody who always thought she had to be first and best, this is a beautiful, grace-filled spot to inhabit. I am surprised by it. There is some deep level of trust here, one I have never experienced and did not expect.
Sometimes I don’t quite know what to do with it. However, I am thankful, and open to whatever may come. It seems that discovering who I am may take a lifetime.
I’m glad it’s with him.