That One Time I Didn't Sing For Twenty Years & Why It's Time For You To Dust Off The Old Chops
A few weeks ago our video guy from church asked me to film a short song for our new website we're rolling out. I heard myself say, "yes". I said yes! I've been saying "no" to singing for years. Like 15+ years. Actually wait. It's been 20 years. Holy moses, it's been twenty years…..
I used to sing. I wasn't a super talented singer, but I enjoyed it and I loved to worship. But I abruptly stopped one year. I was thinking about this the other day and I decided to pinpoint what made me stop singing in the first place.
Then I remembered. It was Phoebe from the sitcom Friends! It was the Smelly Cat song! I pictured her there at Central Perk Coffee shop clumsily chopping on her guitar and singing off-key completely oblivious while her friends forged enthusiasm for her act.
(If you youngins' haven't seen Friends, stop reading and re-direct to Netflix. I mean, that's just gross negligence on your part, young millennial.)
I was thin and had long blond hair and I taught myself to play the guitar. There were just too many similarities for someone not to make the connection. One day I felt paralyzed by fear that I might look and sound that awkward. Back then I cared way too much about what people thought about me. So I simply stopped. You can't be afraid of doing nothing, right? Safe over here in my nothing corner.
My biggest fear was that people would hear me.
Terrified as I was of having my voice heard way back then, now I am preparing to publish a memoir this coming June. Ironic, ain't it? I'm at the stage in my publishing adventure where we are seeking endorsements. I was very purposeful in who I asked to endorse my book. We sent to people, women mostly and a few men, who were absolutely instrumental in my faith journey. Their voices through blogs, books, podcasts, and music influenced my life. The dictionary definition of influence is,
"the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others"
What an appropriate word! The influence of these women to me was a powerful, compelling force. Simply by using their voice, these ladies sturdied hope and nurtured determination in a critical season.
As I thought about the women we reached out to as we prepare to market my book, I had to smile. It's absurd I even get to request audience from them. I will be stoked if any of them agree to put their name on my book, but even if they don't, the truth is- their impact has already been lent to the project.
Because of their active participation in reaching this generation for Jesus, because of their stubborn pursuit and dogged determination to be heard, something profound and simple happened.
I heard them.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day who said that the goal of the enemy is to silence our voices. That stuck with me. I find this so true in my own life. In stepping out these last few years with blogging, submitting my manuscript to a publisher, shooting a video for my church, booking speaking engagements, and the vision I have for the future, all require something that in previous years would have been entirely out of the question: My voice.
The enemy tried to take it.
There's a Twenty-One Pilots song lyric that speaks to this,
"I don't know why
I just feel I'm better off
Staying in the same room I was born in
I look outside
And see a whole world better off
Without me in it trying to transform it"
This is the enemy's game. This insecurity is something I hear over and over from people. Insecurity cause fear. Fear paralyzes.
That's his goal. "Shut up. Don't do anything", he whispers. "Hush now, you won't be afraid in your nothing corner." An opponent paralyzed is no opponent at all, now is it? I see why stealing our voices is so imperative to him, our enemy.
Proverbs 29:18 in the Message reads like this,
"If people can’t see what God is doing,
they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
they are most blessed."
Another version puts it like this, "Without vison the people perish…."
Nothing squashes vision like insecurity and fear.
After I said yes to singing after years of silence and realizing I wasn't afraid anymore, I stood in the shower where I think most of my thoughts. I tried to remember; Who had squashed me? Who mocked me? Something that traumatic would surely be remembered, right? Who's the jerk who laughed at me and told me I sounded like Phoebe? Hmmm… Who… was… it?
The scalding water pounding my back seemed to refresh my memory. I told myself that!
No one had ever said anything to me other than my own vanity of wanting to hide to avoid future possible mockery. Was the enemy trying to silence my voice all of those years ago?
Now don't get me wrong. I don't think I'm a fantastic singer who has deprived the world of years of melodic bliss. Nor do I believe the words I pen are earth shattering, culturally profound or necessary for the survival of planet earth.
So what's the big deal? Why is this voice stuff so important? What is wrong with our nothing corners?
I thought about these women who invested in me, who hold such a tender place in my heart, to whom just this week I sent endorsement requests. Their impact was only possible because they put their words out there. I'm sure they knew they weren't geniuses. But they wrote the books anyway. They probably felt insecure recording their own voice for that podcast but they leaned into the mic anyway. I'm sure the enemy kept whispering, "shut up! What do you know anyway?" Thank the Lord they ignored him and pursued on speaking.
I often feel exposed and vulnerable putting my words out there. I know I open myself up to critics who inevitably will find me. But more than I fear them, I fear the alternative: Being afraid in my nothing corner.
When I was helpless and hurting I found women who were stubbornly pursing Jesus and turning their voices over to him despite the enemy's irritating babble about not being good enough.
"But what if you sound stupid and nobody likes you?" he pleads in a last ditch effort to shut you up.
But I had already been influenced by gals who understand people liking you is not the point. To accept the gifts, talents, passions and voices God gives to us and offer them back to him is a natural response to his goodness. We were made for this.
I wonder, Do you have a Smelly Cat moment? Was there an event or day that squashed your passion and banished it to the nothing corner? Maybe your thing wasn't singing. We are not all gifted in words. My friend is pursuing med school. Her voice is learning, medicine and healing. Another friend, the gift of helps and another, creating things with her hands.
What is it you have tucked away, hiding safely and wastefully in the nothing corner?
What I do is vulnerable. And it can be scary. But to me there is something scarier still: What if I don't? What if these courageous, invaluable women had kept silent? What if they listened to the critics and their insecurity trumped their enthusiasm?
I'd rather error on the side of risk. I hope that you do too. Because, What if your voice is for someone else what these women were to me?
Where is your voice? Dust it off. Be afraid of it, and then sing anyway.