Need vs. Want

“What do I want to do?”

“What does someone need me to do?”
“What would I love to do?”

“What would I love to do to meet someone else’s need?”
“What instrument would I love to play, just for the joy of playing?”

“What instrument do I need to play, to cover a part, fill in, or otherwise help?”

I know these are really odd questions. I’m an odd sort of person, so no surprise there.

But I’m also realizing that questions like these have had an effect on how I’ve wandered around this world for the past 55 years.

(Ok – they might not have kicked in for the first few weeks of those 55 years. Frankly, I think the answer to “What do I want?” was pretty much, “Eat, sleep, poop, repeat.” So, the questions kicked in later.)

(Just dawned on me that those first weeks may indeed have been the first time I could actually multitask. Wow.)


I’m still in the learning curve here – trying to figure out what I’m to do, where I’m to steer the ship, and learning how to try doors, finding mostly closed ones, and move on to find others.

My counselor, She Who Knows Stuff, has always challenged me with this… Instead of “What am I supposed to do?”, she wants me to ask, “What do I want to do?”

And I have NO idea…

So, in true convoluted Calbert style, I’m trying to look one or two questions behind it… Why don’t I have any idea why I have no idea what I want to do?

See? Convoluted.

And I’d venture to say that I’m not the only one. Jump in here, peeps, if you find yourself wandering too…

I realize that most of the time, someone will ask me what I want to do, and I’ll either respond with, “What do YOU want to do?”, or a hearty “Whatever.” My boss (back when I had one…) will ask me what hours I’d like to work for a particular project, and I’ll say, “Whatever hours you need me to work.”

See what I do there? I always respond to “need,” and not to “want.” That undercurrent of response might be making itself known in big ways – contributing to this problem I have in discerning what I actually WANT to do when I grow up.

Oi. Convoluted to da max. Word to yo dysfunctional goldfish. Or hamster. Whatever you need.

The thing that made me start to notice this bunny trail of epic proportions? The fact that I’m a multi-instrumentalist. A musical Swiss Army knife, if you will.

I honestly can’t say that I play a lot of instruments because I love each and every one of them, that I swoon with rapture upon playing them, and that communing with my musical muse in instrumental bliss is a truly magical moment in my life.

Besides, my muse is a mental hamster with a nasty attitude who gets joy out of leaving me twisting in the wind. Not the kind of little critter one wants to “commune” with.

I picked the saxophone in 6th grade band, not because I had a deep and abiding love for the instrument, but because it wasn’t a clarinet (which my brother plays), and because, back then, pudgy boys who wanted to play the flute were considered “not normal,” pretty much placing a bull’s-eye on your tushy every recess period for the rest of your life. So yeah, saxophone.

I made the jump from tenor to baritone sax, and in high school followed in my brother’s footsteps to contrabass clarinet. I don’t remember if that was a choice of desire, or if I moved over because they needed somebody to play the thing. I’m glad I did, for the record, but still… Along the way I picked up piano, messed with some brass and percussion, and started my long relationship with bass guitar…

Because they were needed. Or because it might get me in with some cool kids, since they needed a bass player.

But choosing an instrument because I love it? I love the sound of it? I desire to play it? I actually can only identify two or three that I could say that about… Recorders, whistles, and ocarina. Also the bass, once I realized I was playing it for myself, not just because someone needed it. And the organ – I really love to play the organ… Even though, again, I started playing it to fill a need…

And the wind controller. But that’s mostly because it sounds like everything and anything. The perfect instrument for someone who dabbles in ADD, but never went pro with it.

Do I hate the others? Not at all. The instrument I love in the moment is the one I’m playing at the time. I’m playing, and I’m filling a need.

There it is again – “Need.”

And that, at the very core, might be what I’m plodding through right here, right now, four years into Life 2.0. I don’t know how to answer the question, “What do I want to do?”, because I’ve never been able to answer that question.

Certainly there’s a balance here, peeps. In Kingdom life, we’re to be servants. We’re to look after other’s needs, putting them before our own.


I think my conflict comes about because sometimes it’s easier to respond to others’ needs than it is to admit and embrace our own. It’s easier to flow like water into the cracks and crannies of others’ needs, easier to respond in servanthood, than it is to be the ice breaker, charting a course, setting a direction, breaking through the barriers or navigating around the ones that should be avoided.

If we don’t find that balance, we’re forever waiting for a need to pop up, so we can jump in and help, but remaining in limbo ourselves. We never move, we never discover, and we never embrace a vision of what God might be calling us to.

We’re not able to answer the question, “What do I want to do?”

And a valid variation on that question may indeed be, “What does God want me to do?” Absolutely.


Without an ability to know our own desires, our own passions and interests, we’re in “wait and respond” mode once again. We sit back, we wait for God to drop a direction in our laps, and then we move.

He’s made it clear, for me at least, in this time, in this place, that’s not how we’re gonna roll. No Deus ex Machina. No golden couch from on high, dropping down to whisk me away to my next assignment. He’s placed a new life in front of me, with almost limitless possibilities. It doesn’t matter how old I am, or everything that I still drag around from my old life… He’s asking me to look, to decide, to step…

And as I learned in the last week or so, sometimes He pulls the rug out from under me, taking away the structured, external part of my current existence that actually brings in some decent income, and laying bare the truth that I simply don’t know how to move on my own.

I respond well to need. But I lack the inward discernment to find a path. And I guess in the harsh light of God’s ugly clock, it’s time to do something about that.

Can I admit that I’m scared? (I guess I just did…) I know what happens when I’m left on my own – the forces rally at the Eye Gate, I bow to useless idols, and I not only lose the battle, but I don’t even resist. Perhaps I don’t seek a path because I know I’ll never have the resolve to walk down it. I’ll find a comfortable bed of rot and filth, lie down in it, and wait for some external circumstance to come and rescue me, all the while talking about my “options,” thinking of my “potential,” and lamenting about “what might have been…”

But never getting up out of my bed of nastiness and taking a step in any of those directions.

I don’t trust myself to find a path, even one God plainly lays before me, because I’ve disappointed myself too many times before.

Once again, I’ve been placed where there are no options except the ones I create or choose. Once again, Deus ex Machina has gone on vacation, and once again my Father says, “Pick a direction, and GO. I’ll help you, either giving you momentum on the way, or turning you in a different direction, but you’ve got to choose, and you’ve got to move.”

Will this time be different? Or will the Eye Gate remain open to whatever darkness walks in? Will the bed of rot become my resting place, until all the light I might have reflected is lost in gloom?

No, my Father won’t allow that. He doesn’t leave His kids crying in the wind, lost in the rot. I may sometimes feel alone, but I’m never abandoned. I may choose to close my eyes to the light for a time, but the light never goes away.

Child of the loving Father, the time is now. Lessons need to be learned. Steps need to be taken. And choices need to be made.

It’s never going to get easier, though it might become a little less scary as you start to move. Maybe the hardest choice is the first one, the one that breaks the ice, the one that shifts the balance and starts to build momentum…

The choice that comes from the answer to the question –

“What do you want to do?”

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