Sunday, February 20, 2011

but not today

I sing in front of the whole congregation a few times a month, as part of helping lead worship. I grew up singing - have had songs in my heart for earlier than I can remember and have the audio recordings to prove it - but did most of my formal singing in a choir. I loved singing in a group and rarely ever tried for solos. I get nervous when attempting to perform like that alone. Public speaking? No problem. I love me some attention.

Public singing? I'll get so nervous that it literally will not happen. At all. Nothing will come out, no matter how hard I try.

For years now, every time I get in front of the congregation (it doesn't help that in my head, I refer to it as an "audience"), I tremble. My heart pounds painfully, and I'm always afraid that my voice will disappear into one tremulous, pathetic squeak. I can only look at the music, never into the faces of friends, and I rest my microphone on my chin to keep it from visibly shaking. I have taken to praying fervently on mornings I'm doing worship: Lord, may my voice bring honor to your name. May it be about YOUR glory, and not my own. May I neither distract nor detract due to nerves or pride. May my worship be in spirit and in truth.

God's been faithful, and my voice is getting stronger in this vulnerable position (one man, one woman, some instrumental back-up). However, there are still land mines, like deeply meaningful songs. Really, I never know what's going to set me off in quiet tears while I mouth the words, but the songs I chose for big Blake's funeral are pretty much guarantees.

If I had only used songs I hated for that service, I would not be in this predicament!

For the most part, I can now sing Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus and remain composed. However, I learned today that just because I'm okay in rehearsal does not mean I won't bawl my eyes out during the service when we sing Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners. And it's not really embarrassing - I can cry publicly like I can speak publicly, I just look a lot blotchier - but it's distracting. Rather than people in a worshipful frame of mind of "How great Thou art!," I imagine them thinking "What's wrong with her?"

When I asked the man who chooses the songs what he thought about me having a "no-sing" list to ensure that I wouldn't cry, he remarked on two things. First, he really appreciated seeing my open and honest emotional struggle. As a divorced man, he was moved by the profundity of the words and how they had moved me... which then moved him to tears. He also appreciated my courage in just staying up there, crying and mouthing the words. He didn't find it distracting in the least, and he understood why I wept (as in, there was nothing new wrong with me). Second, he asked if those were the only two songs I would definitely cry at. And... they aren't. There are others - some from our wedding, some that speak to loss and the profundity of suffering and Christ's redemption and the joyous glory of Heaven - that can bring me down.

As one friend put it, "Well, maybe there's comfort in the fact that you take me down with you when I see you." Yep, so comforting. At least she doesn't mind, but she's also not in front of everyone else with every sniffle magnified by a mic.

Because I don't just dissolve into a teary puddle every time I help with worship, I'm reluctant to have a few off limits songs. I love these songs passionately. I want to be able to sing them with a glad heart and no throat-constricting tears.

And maybe one day, I will.


Jamie said...

I can honestly say, Addie, that I didn't notice at all until the end when you left the stage. An honest, open heart is such worship, even when that worship is costly and vulnerable. I commend your bravery and your obedience and hope you keep on singing, no matter what.

Molly said...

When I saw that you posted the lyrics on FB, my mind went to the drive we took, not really going anywhere, when you were writing down the lyrics for Blake's funeral.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Love you, friend.

Noel said...

Oh, Sweet Girl. I'm sorry it was hard for you today. That is a pickle...Just give yourself lots of grace, it sounds like you're doing a good job of that and everyone else is, too. Love you.

Grammie Perrine said...

I love to hear someone sing with emotion... it is the ONLY way to sing!

Jessielynn said...

Oh, Addie- today I gave a staff devotion here at Rosslyn about why "In Christ Alone" means so much to me- we sang it at John Jensen's memorial service, at Wes and Stefanie's wedding. And part of that story is you and big Blake and little Blake and God's kind provision in all our lives.

From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Crystal Young said...

Where there once was only hurt, you gave your healing hand.
Where there once was only pain, you brought comfort like a friend.
I feel the deepness of His love piercing my darkness.
I feel the bright and morning sun, as it ushes in His joyful gladness.
He's turned my mourning into dancing again.
He's lifted my sorrows.
I can't stay silent, I must sing for his JOY has come.