I walked away from worship today with the desire to crawl into a dark and secret place and lick my self-inflicted wounds. I had a bad day. I’m a worship leader, and as such, my failure feels public and I feel nothing but exposed. Today, I felt exposed as a fraud. I missed chords, lost the timing of songs, and sang the wrong lyrics. It seemed I watched myself from the outside as I lost confidence, slowly letting the worship team, the pastor, and my brothers and sisters down. I wanted to apologize from the stage, then beg for patience and another chance. Instead, I plowed through to the end, then attempted to duck past all the thanks yous and sneak out the door to cry.
This is not a blog about how I can work harder to stay in the zone. This is no admonition to remember your “audience of one” and block out the rest of the world. I cannot carelessly dismiss my failure in a bold proclamation that I should only care what God thinks, and he takes the most awful noises and makes them beautiful. While those things may be true in some sense, this blog is a confession to you, my brothers and sisters.
I am weak.
This morning, I felt joy drain from my soul and shame take its place. In response, I disengaged. I buried my gaze in the chord chart or closed my eyes altogether. When I realized that I had shut everyone out, I took a moment and in my weakness, I chose to look up. I saw you, my brothers and sisters. There are a few of you who are bold enough to look me in the eye while we sing to each other. I saw one beloved daughter singing with her lips and signing with her hands in a joyful dance of words. I saw lifted hands, and I saw people singing words that I knew they struggled to believe. I saw the smile on my dearest friend’s face, a smile that indicated she knew I had written the words we sang, and loved them simply because she loves me. I got to share with God’s people a verse that same friend gave me before I walked on stage in a small prayer she texted to me. I do not stand alone before you on Sunday mornings. What you see on stage is an act of worship buoyed by the love and the outpouring of others.
This morning, as I walked away, I knew I didn’t have an audience of one. I failed and then became discouraged before an entire congregation. I could either choose to remain discouraged, to make vows to try harder next time, to make excuses for my failure, or….I could choose to be uplifted by the joy of others. So, my brothers and sisters, those of us worshiping from the stage need you. We are just as weak and prone to discouragement as everyone else. I confess the difficulty of looking out at crossed arms, closed mouths, and general expressions of boredom or even perhaps distrust. But there are those moments when I look out and see warm smiles, kind reception, and humble gestures of joy. Your smiles invite me into fellowship with you, as I hope mine do for you. You sing to your Father, just as I do, but you are singing to each other, too. You are singing to me of God’s goodness. Your love for the Father rises in songs of praise and spreads wide in encouragement.
Yes, It is true that our altar, Jesus Christ, sanctifies even the smallest (or most disharmonious) gift, but that same altar sanctifies the greatest gift. All gifts are worthless until laid upon that sacred altar, given up in fragrant smoke for the glory of God, our “audience of one.” I can offer now in Christ what I am able then work to offer more, because a small gift does not give God any more glory than a large gift nor does a large gift diminish God’s goodness. Both gifts are given unto death and death is a fragrant aroma among those who are being saved.
I had a glimpse today, finally, of what it meant when Ezra and Nehemiah told Israel to stop weeping because the joy of the Lord was their strength. When I dared to open my eyes, I saw that I stood among those being saved, and where I saw your joy in your Father, I found strength to continue to rejoice in His goodness. So keep singing to me. And pray for me. Pray that I would give to the Lord all I have. I give because I long for your joy as well.