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Glory, glory, hallelujah...

I remember it clearly.  Sitting in my room, barely a teenager, my green NIV Bible before me.  And praying and crying and just plain begging.

"If You give me a voice, I will use it!"  

I wanted to sing so bad.

My fingers moved passionately over piano keys.  Easily.  They always have.  With piano lessons beginning by four years old because Mom knew truly I had the heart of a pianist and artist; music became me.  My voice, slower to develop, slow to be brave, felt like it was never arriving.  I would sing, but quietly.  I would sing passionately when alone, locking the doors and standing in just the right spot to get the most echo and I'd belt out the National Anthem.  I knew I could do it.  Knew I had it in me.  But I couldn't get it from my lungs, up my heart, through my throat, past my lips if someone was listening.

And I felt like I might die if I didn't let it out.  And I felt like I might die if I did.

A few times I braved the waters and mostly stayed behind the security blanket of my piano when I did. I was always encouraged, always well-received.  It seemed others believed in me more than I did.  And then there was that one time when I was so excited, so ready to sing the song I had been wanting to sing - and a few thoughtless words and a poorly timed sore throat stopped me in my tracks, just hours before show time.  I couldn't go on.  And I didn't try to go on ever again.

The disappointment burned hot.  The hiss of giving up hounded me.

A promise unkept?  I felt the bitter, broken pieces.  But helpless to do anything more.  How could I?  Open my mouth and risk ridicule?  Judgement?  Harsh observations that I was too shy, too quiet, too insecure to be a vocalist?  I didn't have "the big" voice, so never mind that I had a voice at all?  I shut myself down, fast and furious, buried the key and tried to forget that what I had was an answer to prayer and what I had was a gift and what I was doing was fear.

Fast forward to now.  I've joined the church choir and it has been life-giving to me.  I had forgotten how much the breath of life flowed through a song and how intoxicating it is to praise, loud, fierce, soft, real.  I've teared up during practice and as we've viewed new music for Sunday morning.  I've had chills.  I've felt the conviction.  I've felt God in that place.  And I've gone home with music and I practice and pretend I would audition and imagined I could be courageous and follow-through... and I then couldn't speak up.

One night God and I were having a conversation on the way to practice and He asked me, clearly, no doubt in my heart about it, "Why do you want to sing?"  I weighed it carefully... was I only doing this for me?  To settle some hole in my heart?  Or was it something more?  Immediately and sincerely the answer came, "It makes me come alive."  I couldn't not sing.  Not singing would be a little death to my soul.  And brazenly I declared if He brought me to it, I'd say yes.  I'd have to say yes.

I walked in that night, sang along with everyone and a new friend nudged me, "You should try out for this!"  What?  Me?  Now, Lord?  No.  No, I... no.  I took the music home, practiced, learned it, loved it... and chickened out.  Hide away some more.  Just a little longer.  Shovel the dirt higher.  The truth, the desire, deeper.

And then a new song and I listened and I chilled and the tears tugged at my heart, the words, the voice I don't use, it all cried out.  I had to sing.  I had to try.  Again, once more, the music comes home, my fingers play, my voice tries, and I learn it and I love it and I believe it.  The days dwindle and I realize tonight is probably the night for auditions.  Now or never.  And the throat closes and I think, "Maybe just never."

I get up to leave and our worship minister and I cross paths.  We say, "Hey." I try to move fast, to leave quick.  Just go home.  And then he stops my flight, "Did you need something?" My heart falls up into my throat and I choke on it, raw, and pretend he doesn't know what I think he must know.  "Huh?  What?  No..."  He must be Spirit-led.  I know he is.  I sense his smile and sense his knowing.

"Are you sure?"  Now.  Or never.


"Well... did you say auditions for that song were tonight or next week?" (Please God, next week!)

"Tonight.  Stay."

Hands tied.  No choice.  God brought me to it and threw me to it.  I nod dumbly.

And I sing, shy and off-key and terrified and verse one barely in the air and he turns, hands me the book, "Good.  Do it."  And just like that I have a solo and just like that I'm handed the second, third and fiftieth chance.  And I want to throw up all over myself.  I even tell him I'll probably puke on the Sunday we perform.  He says he doesn't have a problem with that.  I want to die.  Feel like I am a puddle of heat and embarrassment and, honestly, "Oh, crap, what have I done?!"  

I come home and in a rush of tears and relief and hope I spill it all to my husband.  He's proud of me... and scared for me.  He knows my penchant for anxiety and my stage-fright and my introverted nature.  He knows I'm happy being a background support and that being front and center makes me queasy.  But what he didn't fully understand was that this was part of that teeny, tiny, dreamy, strong-hold in my heart.  I might as well be that fourteen year old in her pink room with her open Bible praying for a voice.  For something to give back.  To come alive and have it be glory for Him who gives all.

How can I be all His if I don't use all He has given?

Weeks ago I thought to myself, "I'll be vulnerable if it makes my face fall off."  I was putting clean sheets on the bed and have no idea why I thought that.  But it was sure and straight and I believe it true.  I will be real and I will be messy and I will, I pray, show God in that.  I am not perfect, I am not airbrushed, I am not politically correct.  I'm not out to win and I'm not out to matter.  But it's easy to say you're willing when you have nothing to be willing and available for.  Easy to say you'll stand the test as long as you're never really tested.  Easy to be brave when you never have to be courageous.

And Wednesday practice before Sunday morning comes long before I'm ready and long before I feel I can own my voice, even though I claim the truths of the song I've been given.  And my hands shake so badly I have to use both of them to hold the mic.  And when I open my mouth, the words tremble so impossibly that I can't find or keep my pitch and I'm all new-colt legs and I nearly collapse.  I apologize and feel the hiss curl, "This is why you shouldn't do this."  

And I shake my head and try again and I don't believe a word of it.  Because I believe I have nothing to fear.  I believe I sing because I'm happy and sing because I'm free.  I believe my heart is awake and alive and that God uses that.  I believe that if I'm willing and I bring the offering, that He will use it - in some way.  And I pray my nerves will fade and that eyes will see past and ears will get over my lost notes and that the truth remains.  The truth that God is King and God is the lover of our souls and that He is everything, everything.

Sunday will come fast.  I fight anxiety and nerves.  They are never ending.  But even if my voice shakes, even if my hands sweat, even if I can't pull off a performance... I know, I know I can handle an offering.  I know I can stand and give the sacrifice of myself and all I am and allow Him to handle the rest.  I gladly do that.  I can do that much.

Loud or quiet, shy or brave, perfect notes or slightly off... It's all for Him.  It always has been.

"In the end, worship can never
be a performance; something
you're pretending or putting on.
It's got to be an overflow 
of your heart... 
worship is about getting personal
with God; drawing close to God."
~  M a t t   R e d m a n 


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