"...Close your eyes and visualize
Nothing is impossible for those who try
Just dream to fly as eagles fly across the sky
I know we can...
Hold on when all hope is gone
The race may not be given to the swift or strong
It's given to The ones who can endure flaws
I know we can...
See the rainbow around us all
Hear the angels when they call
Find a way to reach Inside
Just dare to dream…."
- John Legend
I am learning that, for me, the real goal is not in getting it right, but in facing my fears of failing…of falling on my face, of being seen as ridiculous, foolish, silly, not good enough.
But when you've already fallen on your face, when you, without meaning to, find that you have failed in the eyes of others, you discover that you survive it. You look up and realize that the fall wasn't as far as it had seemed from the self-centered pedestal you had put yourself on. And that if falling wasn't all that bad, you might as well try being courageous about things that mattered to you...the things you dream to do, but have never dared.
This is not a post about facing down lions on the African savanna or marching into battle with an opponent. This is a little story about facing a demon within.
Eleanor Roosevelt once suggested that you, "do one thing each day that scares you." My friend Randall Williams lives this axiom…actually, so do many of my friends, now that I think about it. But it was Randall who turned me on to this concept and I am trying, to the best of my ability, to do it. There are a lot of things that scare me. I'm whittling away at that list day by day. Last Sunday was one of those days.
Saturday night my husband was rehearsing for the Sunday service. Our "regular" musicians were all out of town and he was on deck. He asked me if I had any suggestion for the mid-service song, and I recommended one of my favorites…an adaptation of the classic folk hymn "The River is Wide". He asked me if I would sing it with him and it occurred to me that this would be a great time to face another fear. We had sung in public before, but never in a congregational circle where all of the eyes would be on us…and especially in an intimate family-like group where our regular soloist has a gloriously beautiful voice and is much-loved for her inspiring vocals. If singing in public was something I feared, being compared to others was something that terrified me. So, this would be an opportunity to face two fears, all while serving my worship community. We practiced the song in a key that worked for me and by 2AM I was feeling a bit more willing to give it a try.
But by morning God made it clear that He had other things in mind. I woke up early with the same melody we had practiced the night before singing through my head, but with a whole different set of lyrics. And these lyrics, were amazing. They were so perfectly suited to the theme of our worship service. They felt like a prayer in song from a Poet God. I got up, headed for my computer, typed them into a blank document, asked my husband to take a look at them, and I then I was stuck. We were going to be singing the new lyrics. Only they needed to be tweaked. I had eight verses, we needed no more than five. Consolidating eight stanzas into five was going to take some time, but I still needed a shower. Thank goodness for laptops.
I was in and out of the shower in less than three minutes, grabbed the laptop...and the girls...and we were all in the car and headed to church in less than ten minutes.
But that meant that I only had the fifteen minute drive to make the changes and there would be no time to practice. But there was also no time to think about it all...this was a gift of sorts, in and of itself.
The service started, I opened my laptop so that we could read the new lyrics, and before long it was time for us to sing. My stomach was in a knot, I started to sweat and the one thought I had was "do one thing each day that scares you." "Okay God," I thought, "I love this little congregation and the fellowship I feel here, so let's go." I looked across the circle into the warm encouraging smile of a friend and mouthed the word, "pray." He nodded. Jeff, with his beautiful tenor voice launched into the first verse and when it was time for me to sing the second verse, I bombed. I mean I really tanked. Not only could I not find the note in my key, I couldn't find the note or my key. I was all over the map, musically, within the first line.
My heart…and stomach…started to twist, and a voice inside my head said, "you don't have to do this, just let Jeff take if from here." But in the same moment another voice said, "This isn't about you. It's about the message. It's about defeating fear…not your fear…just fear. Go for it. You don't have to get it right to have conquered fear, you just have to sing." So I sang.
I'm glad I did.
After the service I was concerned that my less than stellar performance interrupted the pure flow of the service. That's when Jeff asked me a question. He said, "During the service one of the readers lost his place and had to search for the next Bible citation. How did that make you feel at the moment?" I thought about it for a few minutes then answered, "well, it made me feel compassion for him, it made me love our sweet congregation where everyone is just doing their best to contribute in whatever way they can, I felt like we were a family just supporting one another." "Exactly," he said, "and that's what you gave everyone else, the opportunity to feel compassion, to support you, to feel a sense of family caregiving." I got it.
And in that safe space of family, they gave me the opportunity to face down one more fear.
Daring to dream, daring to face our fears, daring to fail, to expose ourselves in the company of family…and friends…is living a life full of opportunity, full of desire for growth in grace, full of prayer...not failure.