Thursday, January 30, 2014

from fear to freedom

In my last post I wrote about how God was teaching me to step out of my comfort zone. For the past year, my Saturday nights had been occupied with leading Sr. High youth group at church. However, just when I started to get comfortable with that role, God decided to shake things up again.  

January 2010. It was supposed to be just another Saturday night. I had everything all planned out. An hour of games in the gym, followed by a brief lesson and prayer time. Then snacks and some more games. I was a little nervous because I was leading all by myself that night, but I'd done it before and knew I could handle it. No big deal. 

Much to my dismay, 7:30 rolled around, and no one showed up. Up until this point, I could always count on at least 4 kids coming out. But 7:45 came and went...and still nobody. By 8pm, it was obvious that the night was a bust. Disappointed, I said goodnight to the janitor at the school, and headed out. 

Walking to my car, I paused to look across the street and noticed that there were several cars in the church parking lot. The lights were on at the church. Was there some event going on that I had forgotten? I was not ready to face a Saturday night home alone, and my curiosity was piqued. I decided to head to the church instead of going straight home.

Upon arrival, I could hear the band practicing for tomorrow morning's service. I decided I would slip inside and  just listen for a while. Unfortunately, my plan was thwarted when the praise team leader saw me and immediately said, "We're short a singer tonight...want to come up here and sing with us?" 

Now, don't get me wrong--I actually enjoy singing. I'd sung the choir, and been in several musical productions back in the day. But to actually stand where people could see me and sing into a microphone so people could hear me? Yikes! 

Sensing my hesitation, the guitarist assured me it was only a practice and there was no one else in the auditorium. The pianist, who I knew from choir, informed me that I already knew all the songs anyway. The drummer, who just happened to be a close friend of mine, gave me a look that said, "Don't be a chicken...just do it." 

I reluctantly agreed, and gingerly accepted the microphone, half expecting it to bite my hand. It did not. Somehow I made it through the first song. The second came easier.  I started to relax and have fun. Well, until practice was over, and the pianist said, "I think you should sing with us tomorrow morning," that is. 

Crap. This was exactly what I did not want to do. Public singing was a million times worse than public speaking! I could feel my throat tightening and my body breaking out in a sweat already, just thinking about it. As I envisioned myself standing in front of an auditorium filled with 300 people, I started to feel sick. 

Long after everyone else left for the night, my drummer friend sat with me on the stage, as I "claimed my space" for the upcoming service, and practiced deep breathing techniques to try and calm the butterflies. He assured me that each time I got on the stage, it would be a little easier. Each time? If I somehow managed to survive this ordeal, I vowed that there would be no next time.

I did not sleep very well that night and my anxiety was at an all-time high the next morning. I felt like throwing up. Then I had the random thought: what if I had to throw up while on-stage? Oh golly! I had fifty thousand other crazy what-if scenarios playing in my head that morning. Most of which involved either a wardrobe malfunction, my voice squeaking, me tripping over a microphone cord, me singing the wrong words. Well, you get the point. I was absolutely terrified. 

I made it through morning practice without vomiting. Or losing my clothes. Or squeaking. Or tripping. Or singing the wrong words. And before I knew it, church was starting and I was singing. And guess what? Nothing bad happened.

Afterwards, a lot of people said a lot of really nice things to me--none of which I really remember because I was too busy being relieved that it was all over. But my friend was right. The more I faced my fear of standing on the stage and singing in public, the easier each subsequent time became. Because I didn't quit singing that day.  My spur-of-the-moment Saturday night decision turned into a year and a half of service on the church praise team. Unfortunately, our new church is too far away for me to be as involved in it as I was in our previous church. My work schedule is unpredictable, and I tutor in the evenings. So for now, I'm taking a break from music.  

I still don't like standing on stage. I still don't feel comfortable singing in a microphone, and I will most likely never sing a solo to a group of adults. I've spent most of my life living in fear, playing it safe so I wouldn't risk the shame and embarrassment of failure. But that year God showed up and proved that He was bigger than all my fear. It's a lesson I hope I can hold on to for the rest of my life.

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