That moment you realize it’s not about you.
The gifts you’ve been given were meant to share.
Blessed by the generosity of a family of gospel singers and a couple of dear friends with a penchant for road trips, I found myself in the middle of a week-long songwriting school at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. Thinking I was in pretty good shape with several of my best songs, my heart sank as the instructor informed us on Day 1 that he didn’t want to hear anything we had previously written. Of course he didn’t – ’cause that was just one more frustration to add to my growing list. Recently unemployed, I was disillusioned with ministry and feeling like I’d been drop-kicked to the curb. I was also recovering from surgery and had been on complete vocal rest for six weeks. To be honest, I was unsure as to how well (or if) I would be able to sing after that.
“They meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”
These words were etched in a stone monument in front of the dorm where I would stay that week. The original building had been destroyed by arsonists but a new one triumphed in its place. Choking back the tears, I reflected on the Old Testament story of Joseph and was reminded that God had a way of turning things around. The same God had promised to continue (and complete) his good work in my life – no matter how it hopeless it seemed at the time.
Our assignment for the week was to write a completely new piece by adhering strictly to the instructor’s very methodical (and might I add, boring) process. I labored over it, every word an effort and every effort a drudgery. I felt completely out of place with this group of professionals and chastised myself for spilling my guts on the first day when asked to write out what we hoped to accomplish in his class. My, I had some lofty goals! I was embarrassed and wished I could retrieve that paper, hit the road and pretend this never happened.
Rip it up in pieces – the song I tried to write; I know I’d never sing it anyway!
Returning to my room after a deeply moving chapel service with the Voices of Leeon Wednesday night, I panicked at the thought of presenting my song in class the next day. Disappointed with myself and a little mad at God, I tore the lyrics into tiny pieces, throwing them on the floor in my frustration. “I’m not singing that! I hate that song!”
So why pretend it’s working when the words don’t seem to fit?
The rhyme and meter move to different times.
Self-condemnation, feelings of inferiority and fear of humiliation were followed by my usual litany of questions. “What was I thinking? Lord, why did you bring me here, anyway?” Moments passed. He reminded me of the prayer I had prayed months earlier, asking him to show me what was holding me back in my songwriting. In my heart I knew that God had ordained the time and place, and had chosen and prepared the instructor well in advance and, while many others benefited from it, it seemed that week was just for me (I’m not spoiled, just blessed). The tears of doubt subsided and I realized after a while that the struggle had quietly crept away in the face of God’s peaceful calm.
So what if I didn’t have the latest songwriting software or laptop computer with all the bells and whistles? The Lord had always managed to use me just as I was – a simple singer with a classical guitar and handwritten lyrics on a legal pad.
So what if no one else ever recognized my potential or validated my songs? It didn’t seem to matter anymore as my heart rejoiced in knowing it was his validation, his approval, his anointing that I needed and without them, I wouldn’t want to sing anyway.
What mattered most was the condition of my heart and my relationship with him. This was his work, these were his songs. His gifts and calling are irrevocable and were never intended to be admired like trophies on a shelf. They are more like relief planes dropping supplies across enemy lines to the starving, war-ravaged masses; first responders heralding a message of hope and healing. They have a purpose – they are given to bless others. I picked up my guitar and began singing softly through tears of gratitude, without a single thought as to what anyone else might think:
Someone’s waiting for my new song;
Are they longing for peace and harmony?
It’s worth waiting when a new song
Brings new life and sets you free!
And then I knew – everything was going to be all right.
He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. – Phil. 1:6