Yesterday was the first time I picked up my guitar and led worship in a group that wasn’t just a few of my closest, most intimate friends in almost four years. I felt awkward, out-of-shape…by the end I was sweating from the sheer amount of push-through I had to do to make it through the 2-song set. By the end, my fingers were missing cords and my voice was shaking, but I I pressed on because there's something around the corner that I don't want to miss.
I stepped off of the stage, familiar feelings of self-doubt stepping up to take their turn at evaluating the set. I chose not to engage with them. I'm much kinder and gentler with myself these days. I've grown more than I can grasp, but I still felt somewhat numb and out-of-my-own-body as I put away my guitar and walked into the preschool room for my hour of helping.
There are painful places triggered in that room…sitting with memories this morning as I type that still bring tears to my eyes both from the joy of the privilege of the job I once had and also the sadness that loss brings when the unexpected brings an abrupt end to a community you thought would last forever.
I don't sit with these long as they are simply bubbles rising up to be acknowledged and then released back into the Presence that so tangibly filled my heart and my home just moments ago when I followed the tug of my heart and picked up my guitar again.
This time it was an audience of One.
I pulled out my lead sheets from yesterday and laid them on the piano lid, slipped my strap over my head and onto my shoulder, set the capo and began to strum.
My voice is stronger, more confident this morning. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever recover. The last four years have been dark and lonely and brilliant and becoming…I've lost a lot. I've gained a lot. What I've lost, I wonder if I will ever get back, especially when I think of disciplines and practices that fell by the wayside for the sake of simply surviving. Only the bare minimum made the cut.
So when I hear my voice sound decent and the musical vibration from the strings ring out mostly true, I take heart.
Maybe it's all still there somewhere.
Muscles atrophy, however. I fight to not be discouraged and to hold onto hope. I hear His voice…at least I think it's Him…whispering to me that while He didn't orchestrate the challenges of the last four years, He's used them to clear out plenty of faulty thinking in my foundation so that when it's time to re-build, the foundation will be sure.
There's hope in that.
I sing through the verses and choruses of "Defender" and hang out on the bridge for a while. Rita gets it. She understands the journey. Her songs and lyrics have long spoken to me at opportune times.
I could loop these words over and over and over again. So I do. I sing and I sing and I sing and I choke up. Every. Single. Time. There's something here to be explored, so I keep repeating, allowing my heart and soul to hear the words deeply, to let them sink in and wash over whatever needs this space right here and now.
So much goes through my mind. I know that I know that I know that someone reading these words needs to know about this journey I'm on because in the midst of so much pain there is great hope and restoration. I feel my way through to capture what needs to be written right now…
As I sing I remember the times we gathered in my living room for Come to the Chamber women's worship nights. Shelby and Tami and I would gather and pray and lead out from our hearts and went down paths together in the Spirit that led to such hope and truth and freedom for all.
I'm feeling their presence with me as I stand in my entryway. I sense Shelby's voice and guitar with mine. We've never led this song together, but I know it is "our song." She recently stepped back onto the stage to lead, too, and texted me that she'd done this song and sang it for me. My throat constricts. All the emotion.
I see Tami dancing, on top of the enemy's head. She throws light and love around the room in copious amounts. We are set free.
All of this in my imagination and so I sing it out, reclaiming this space for worship and gathering again. I don't know the timeline. I don't know if I'm really ready, if I really want it yet, but I declare it anyway.
I get to the pre-chorus again:
I think to myself, "Actually, I've done a whole heck of a lot more than that, but I guess, in the end, only that which was praise, worship, humility, and trust mattered. All the other striving, fearful fretting, anxious activities…no fruit there."
There's no condemnation…just a knowing that, while I'll still probably partake in empty thinking occasionally, it actually adds zip, zero, zilch and more often than not leaves me with less than what I started with.
This time when I get to the chorus, it erupts with more feeling and passion than I've felt in a while when worshiping on my own. The truth is resonating through and through.
The bridge comes around again and new words come forth so I sing them over and over again. The fear dispels…that voice that wants to focus on the losses and what has to be rebuilt and the weaknesses and seeming million… it steps backwards into the light…
Over and over…my voice breaks, the tears fall, my heart fills with a sure knowing and surrender…
Even now the tears come…how does He do it? Not in bewilderment but in wonderment…All that fear and confusion as I would try to find a way to piece life back together. It was so dark and I couldn't see. I stumbled around in pain and hurt. Anxiety overwhelmed me. Grief overtook me. My eyes were looking through dark and dingy lenses.
But all along…my darkness was never dark to Him. My pieces where never lost and scattered. He knew right where every precious tear was…right there in the bottle He holds them - a treasure beyond measure…
Something has shifted in my heart. I feel the expanse of His love spreading through every cell of my body. I want to weep at the smallest glance back at the revelation of His goodness.
He's been with me every step of the way.
I've known this. I've gotten hope from this truth many, many times. I've had moments of clear thought and revelation and a heart filled with light.
But today, I know it differently somehow. He knows. He's always known. And now today I know it too…more deeply, more clearly, more resolutely than ever before.
My list of to-do's today was long. I woke up with the overwhelm bearing down on me. I've had the longing to pick up my guitar before and turned away.
Today, I'm so glad I said yes to the gentle tug in my heart and the whispered invitation of my King. He is so good. So very, very good. He calls me away not to distract me or to take up my time or to cause me to fall behind.
He calls me because He loves me, and He just wants to tell me how much. He wants to deposit truth into my heart so that I can move more quickly through tasks that need my attention and more slowly through the beauty, soul-drenching moments of my day.
A holy hush, a victorious yell, a wild dance, a gentle sway…it's all happening simultaneously in my heart and I don't know where to go from here, but I know that my next steps are in His hands where He transforms and reforms and redeems and restores and does oh so much more than I could ever hope or imagine.
This past year+ has been full of delightful surprises, unexpected friendships, precious opportunities, but until this moment I wasn't fully present to them….a piece had still been missing…a piece I thought was lost to me…maybe forever.
But today, I know He has it and when He restores it, I'll be better than ever before.