Last month I did a gig with Toby Mac. A pretty cool honor to share the stage with Toby- he’s written so many great songs and has survived in a very tough business for a couple decades now.
Before the show, I was sitting in the auditorium checking emails on my phone. I looked up to see a young guy approaching me. His volunteer backstage pass was swinging from his neck and his eyes were alive with anticipation of the show. He had been hanging out with Toby’s band all day and was pretty pumped up. He made a beeline to me and in an excited voice said, “Hey are you Danny Oertli?”
“Yep, that’s me.”
“Oh, sorry, but I’ve never heard of you before.”
“Hey, no big deal. I like to fly under the radar.”
“So, how long have you been doing this?”
“Over 20 years now I guess. A long time and a lot of miles!”
“Wow! So, let me ask you a question: in 20 years, have you been able to find any level of success at all?”
The question caught me off guard and my mind reeled as I thought of possible answers. Sadly, my first reaction was pride- well, I’ve played on this stage and that, I’ve made some records, etc. . .But, before that answer made it’s way from my brain to my lips, that silliness faded and I became somewhat reflective.
After what must have seemed like a very dramatic pregnant pause, the words fell out of my mouth.
“Well, I guess for 20 years I’ve paid my mortgage and provided food for my family. I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time with my wife and kids and we’ve been able to travel quite a bit together. Most of all, I think I’m doing what God made me to do and I love it. I guess that’s how I would define success.”
The young man looked at me for a few seconds, most likely waiting for another answer that would include record sales, recognition, maybe a few artist names he would know. But, I had taken his innocent question and turned it into a spiritual line of demarkation, an appraisal of my years in ministry.
And, in that moment, I was reminded. . .
I really, really love what I do.