As I briefly mentioned on Saturday, our worship team at church struggled this past weekend. One singer was understandably so upset by the internal situation with which the church is dealing that she recused herself, leaving one other vocalist and myself for Thursday's rehearsal. Then the other singer, a sweet teenager with a beautiful soprano voice, arrived on Thursday with a sore throat; she was determined to do what she could to be better in time for both our Saturday evening and Sunday services, but she and I were both doubtful. In fact, I even found myself imagining what I'd say to the congregation if I - an alto/tenor who has rarely even led part of a song, let alone everything - were the sole vocalist to greet them.
And, sure enough, about two hours before I was set to leave for Saturday rehearsal, our interim coordinator called with news that the other singer was out of commission, probably for all the services. We discussed one alternate song possibility, and he promised to take care of that while I began calling all the other singers, seeking a pinch hitter.
But I struck out. A few were not home, one other gal also had laryngitis, a couple were uncomfortable given the larger situation, and several had previous commitments. And so up until 15 minutes before I left for church, I was bracing myself to lead alone.
And then my friend Jim called. Jim had had a previous commitment, but around 2:30 that had fallen through. And he was willing to step in...which was sweet irony given the fact that it's largely because of Jim's influence that I'm singing in church at all.
At our run-through on Saturday afternoon, we chose to simply start several songs together. But, as it turns out, even though Jim has been on worship teams for a long time, he was relatively unfamiliar with a couple of the songs and didn't feel comfortable taking the lead on them...which meant that I'd have to give 'em a whirl.
Those who know me in real life realize what a big deal that was. I can sing - I wouldn't be serving on a worship team if I had a tin ear - and many moons ago I even sang the (mega-high) part of The Mother Abbess in my high school's production of The Sound of Music. But it's just being real to acknowledge that my voice has changed over the years, and my natural range is now much lower. Plus, a couple of different situations over the years had enabled me to realize that my real strength is in providing harmonies and blending with other vocalists to add texture. It wasn't always easy to accept that more "behind the scenes" role and I've had bouts of insecurity about my abilities because I wasn't typically asked to lead anything. But I also know that what I can do is a neat gift God has given me, and I've become thankful for how I can contribute in a special way.
All of which is to say that I would not naturally presume to sing lead on anything.
And yet there I was on Saturday. Our team had faced some adversity - mirroring in just a small way what the whole church had been going through during the week - we were an hour from the evening service, and my church needed me to try because they needed to see some semblance of normalcy when they came into the sanctuary.
As is always the case even when I sing melody in unison, I was concerned that my voice would sound...thin, screechy, and/or off-key. But I realized as we began running through the first song that I wasn't petrified as I thought I'd be (and probably should have been). Instead, peace enveloped me and - as I got to parts that scared me - God just reminded me that the words were for Him, and the fear literally evaporated measure by measure.
As a group - vocalists and instrumentalists alike - we had a few glitches on Saturday night, so I left feeling that I wanted to do better (for God) on Sunday. But, contrary to how I've felt before about anything in which I'd led even a little, I didn't feel bad about how I'd done. I just had peace that God would carry me on Sunday.
And He did.
By all rights, anxiety should have hit me then because there were more people at both of those services; in fact, the second service was packed out. I did want to do a good job for God, and my typical concerns entered my mind. And I know it wasn't "perfect" - boy, the bridge on one song was high (for me) and sustained for several long bars so I know I got a little screechy there and had a couple of shaky notes elsewhere.
BUT now I know what it's like to have the Spirit fill me in leading worship because I was very aware that I was not singing in my own strength. It was to Him and it was for my church family - to give them strength as I could - so it was different than any other time I've ever sung in front of a congregation. And it was amazing...
God also gave me the encouragement and thanks of several congregation members afterward - a sweet gift for when I came down off my God-high and could have gotten nervous when I realized just how much He had stretched me.
I don't have any illusions about suddenly taking any kind of lead on a long-term basis; the fact remains that I'm not a soprano, and my voice is more useful in a supporting role. But my experience in leading worship this weekend is proof that God can take a willingness to help and humble but sincere effort to make a difference for people. I'm simply in awe that He chose to gift me of all people with an experience like that, this week of all weeks. But there was a need, and He made the way.