Commitment - The Joy of Total Risk by Prof. Robert N. Ham

In these days of hurried schedules and harried lives, nothing can soothe the soul like commitment. Commitment dares to stand in the way of the unsettledness of the urgent. Commitment stands like a fortress against the storm-driven winds of change and shifting allegiances. Do you want to be effective? Be committed. It works with Christ, it works with church, with family and with choir. In fact, commitment will work anytime for any situation.

A long time ago I read a quote by Anne Ortlund in her book "Up With Worship." The statement was: "Better ten singers who are disciplined, committed, and together than two hundred who are not." I don’t know how many times as a church choir director I’ve looked to that quote to remind me of what’s important.

Few things will encourage a director like commitment. Even greater is the effect committed singers have on one another.

Committed singers don’t worry if anyone else will show up, or if they’ll be the only ones in their section. They know other committed singers will be coming. They form a bond with each other which allows them to risk "being there." Because of commitment they will be joined by other singers. Even if they weren’t joined by others they would do their part to perform their best because this is who they are. Weather won’t stop them, neither will fatigue. Busy schedules, minor health problems or bad attitudes won’t keep them away. Their voices are a gift they’ve been given and they want to use it for God’s glory, for the good of the church, for the benefit of the choir, for the encouragement of the director and to bring happiness and meaning to themselves. There is joy in the total risk of commitment. What risks you might ask?

Committed singers run the risk of being labeled as fanatics. They are accused of being the director’s favorites. They sometimes feel guilty when they have to be away even for a good reason. They have to make decisions that are at times unpopular with family, friends and school officials. They are put in leadership roles that they may be un-comfortable with. But commitment is really a way of life for such people.

Some characteristics of a committed singer are:

1. They are present almost all of the time for rehearsals and worship services.

2. They give their best when everybody else has closed up shop in their heart and in their mind.

3. Their attitude is usually positive.

4. They often give of their time behind the scenes filing music, etc.

5. They usually don’t understand non-committed singers.

6. They encourage us and lead by example. They don’t have to say a thing, their life is their testimony. Their witness is their constancy.

7. They notify you way ahead of time when they are going to miss.

8. Often these are not the best musicians, but the average musician who strives to be the best they can be.

In one sense, to be committed means to prioritize your life and to be able to say "no" to other things that threaten your priorities. This is difficult indeed.

We are sometimes afraid of commitment because we do not want to fail or because we cannot prioritize or say no. There is too much at risk for the non-committed person to make the decision to be committed. They lower their expectations of themselves so as not to be disappointed in themselves. Certainly others will have lower expectations of the non-committed singer, which creates a safer environment. Little is at risk and they participate when convenient.

I submit that the real joy comes from taking the risk to be committed. When we dig down deep and give something our all, often the joy and satisfaction we experience because of our commitment outweighs any risk.

Reconsider your commitment today. You’ll be glad you did.

Prof. Robert N. Ham is Chair of Fine Arts and Choir Director at Bethel College. He also directs the adult choir at Clay United Methodist Church, South Bend, Indiana. hamb@bethel-in.edu