I am currently reading a great book by Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, called, “The Well: Why Are So Many Still Thirsty?” and it convicted me. Conviction is no new experience here, but this one hit hard. I knew of this sin before, but suddenly, after reading Mark’s words, I felt the wound I’d caused more deeply.
Allow me to confess.
In his book, Mark recounts a time in his life, when he wasn’t able to sing. Imagine being faced with losing the thing you felt God called you to use. What do you say to your Creator when that happens? During this time, Mark had to look at his life and his ministry differently. Then one day a man with no vocal training asked to sing at his church. Mark shook his head warily at the idea, given he knew the amount of work required to be good in music ministry. But this man stood before the congregation and belted out the song the Lord had given him to sing, and Mark was moved—not by the man’s voice, but by his heart. A heart for God. Something that sometimes gets lost in the acquiring of talent. Mark says, after that experience, he’d learned his lesson and resumed singing shortly afterward.
I wish I could say the same. Guess I’m more pigheaded than Mr. Hall.
Way back when, I planned to make singing my career. This was before Christian music was what it is today. I knew I wanted to use this “talent” for God, but I had no idea how, and never asked Him what He thought about it. I didn’t receive a lot of support for the idea—family and friends felt the field was littered with wanna-bes who never made it past skid-row. It was hard to get people to even come to my high school choir concerts.
Then one day I had the chance to try out for a solo as part of a choir piece. I was a new tenth-grader at the school and no one knew anything about my voice except that I wanted to use it. I competed against a very sweet senior who’d been classically trained with a stunning voice. Oh well, at least it would be good experience.
I knew something was up when the choir director’s eyes bulged at my audition. However, they quickly dimmed as he struggled not to give too much away. He said nothing after I was done and moved on to the next student. Finally, the senior sang and I was certain she’d be picked.
The day of the announcement came, and I prepared myself for the first of many rejections. It’s part of the process, I better get used to it. Instead, the director said he was going to do something different. He was going to let the choir decide. What?! Why’d we audition if the choir was going to judge? He didn’t explain why—just asked each of us to take our turns before the group. I took mine and the room went silent. I had no idea what that meant, but it gave me the willies just the same.
We were ushered out for the voting. As we stood in the hall, the classically-trained senior faced me and proclaimed, “You got it. I know you did.” The look in her eyes held a mix of excited encouragement for me, yet a note of disappointment, too. I knew she was crazy, but the butterflies kicked up a notch.
I don’t think I realized the gravity of the situation at the time, but this solo was that senior’s last opportunity in high school. Everyone knew it, and everyone wanted her to have that chance. But the song didn’t call for an operatic voice—like she had. It called for a simpler one—mine. Other than a few devoted friends of the senior, the rest of the room voted for me. I was told one of the things that worked in my favor was the little crack in my voice at the songs emotional peaks. However, in order to allow for the senior to have a chance, she was made my understudy. Given we had two opportunities to perform this song—the choir concert for the school, and the adjudication for the state—it increased the likelihood she’d be able to sing.
If it weren’t for my pride.
Exactly one week before the concert I lost my voice. That’s okay, I had time … I thought. But the voice (or maybe God) had other ideas, and I began to panic. You see, all my family and friends planned to be at this concert to hear me sing and I did not want to lose the opportunity to have them there. So I sang—Very badly!!!
And the senior did not.
The best compliment I received from that concert was from a friend who said, “You sounded like you might have been good if you weren’t sick.”
The second opportunity—the adjudication—went well, so judges and fellow choir students got to hear my “talent.” However, nothing will eradicate the fact that I clung to something that wasn’t mine because I was too prideful to give it to the other singer. She deserved it. She’d worked for it. It was her time and I stole it. Not because I took the opportunity when it was given me, but because I didn’t let go when God told me to give it back.
I failed the test.
As you’ve probably figured out, I did not make singing my career. I continued on in music for a few years, but quickly realized I lacked a few things that one needs to pursue it. One being “style.” The style I’d had when the choir heard that crack of emotion during the solo. But that disappeared as I received training and became haughty about my craft. The other thing I lacked was strength. The above scenario was not the last time I’d lose my voice. It became a regular occurrence as I worked hard to hone my skill.
It is clear to me now God did not want me to pursue this career. Not because He was punishing me for my greed, but because He loves me. He knows had I done well in it, I would have made it about me and not about Him. Where would our relationship have been had that happened? Not where it is today. Not even close.
God needed to humble me many times—even after I changed majors—before I finally had any clue how to follow Him. I hope I have it now, but being as pig-headed and self-centered as I’ve shown myself to be, I am never sure. So I will continually check in with the Big-Guy now and again to be certain the voice I do use is the one He has planned for me.
To Him be the Glory!
How has He called YOU to use your voice?
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