Kath Sugden

Bristol, UK

Music, meaning and letting go

I became a Christian at about the same time as I started being bullied at school. I was at church and I was asked if I wanted to become a Christian. I said "yes."

Did I know what I was doing? Not really, but it was a beginning. A bit like when you're at a party and the host introduces you to someone you don't know. "Kath, this is God. I think you're going to enjoy getting to know one another. God, this is Kath….well, you know all about her!"

Meanwhile at school I was trying to ignore the way that the constant jibes were hurting me. I became extremely introverted and focussed on my school work. In fact, academic success became my escape. Music in particular was a source of great pride and joy. This was my calling and I was good at it. Moreover, people were praising me for it. I wanted more.

Having successfully negotiated school and university, I started a post-grad teaching course. I was terrible! Not only did I lack the know-how of teaching teenagers, I was terrified of them! It felt like I was back in school again and being picked on. My fragile confidence went through the floor.

Eventually I decided to pray about things. I told God how things were. I put my life in his hands. If he didn't want me to teach, then he was going to have to show me a better way. If he did want me to teach, then he had work to do to turn the situation around. 

This letting go of my ambitions led to a peace I had never known. This peace was so tangible that others noticed. I knew that my success did not in the least affect God's love for me or his concern for my welfare.

A few years later, having finally become a teacher of music, God called me onto the staff of Agape. As I started my training, I began to realise that all these years I had allowed music to define me. It was like my musical activities and the praise that I received from them were at least as important as what God wanted. A show down was imminent. God or music? There's not room in this life for both to be in charge.

I chose the Lord. I let go of music and promised to serve him in whatever way he directed me. Some people critisized me for laying aside a wonderful gift, but I knew what the stakes were and I once more experienced that "peace that passes all understanding."

Fast forward 6 years and God called me to join the team preparing to start working in Russia. This was a radical step, but having prayed about it, I felt that it was the right thing. Another letting go – this time of my fears. 

Our main challenge in that first year in Russia was to adapt to the local culture and to lay aside our previously held British values. This is where things came full circle. I made the acquaintance of some professional musicians who invited me to join them in their concerts. This was not only a great help in learning the language, but also a brilliant way of getting inside the culture. 

What have I learned through all this? That God gives gifts in order to bless us and others. That he only is the Lord but he is also our heavenly father who loves us and wants to bless us. That in offering back to him all that he has given, he gives true meaning and hope for all eternity. 





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