mistake? or unprepared? distant? or vulnerable?

Something happened a few weeks ago that I’ve been thinking and praying about. If you know me or have visited Compendium before, you may know how I feel about “good enough” (I HATE those words) and my personal commitment to strive for excellence (I believe a job worth doing is worth doing well).

I don’t know why I’m this way, but if my therapist comes up with any epiphanies, I’ll let you know.

Regardless, this freakish mindset seeps into to everything I do. These days, that includes singing on the praise team at my church. I usually rehearse 10 to 20 hours per week, mostly in the van during my many hours of chauffeuring my kids around. I often have the week’s praise team music playing on repeat, on my computer as I work or walk on the treadmill and on the cd players in the house as I go through my day. My schedule is usually pretty full, so I find ways to incorporate rehearsal into the everyday tasks of my life.

I saturate myself with that week’s music.

My goal is to know the music so well that on Sunday morning, I can just praise. No work. No thinking about what I’m supposed to do next. No trying to get a harmony right. If I work at it during the week, it’s intuitive on Sunday morning. Just praise.

My prayer for Sunday morning is that I don’t get in the way as the Holy Spirit moves. My prayer is to point people to God. My prayer is that God would use me and the music to bring people in the congregation to a place of joyful praise and deeply renewing worship.

So what happened?

I got in the way. Or so I thought.

A few Sundays ago, the worship leader spoke between songs and through his authentic and vulnerable words, he led the congregation to what I could sense was an awareness of the Holy Spirit. The music began again and we sang a song. As we transitioned to the next song, which I was leading . . .

I came in too early.

A big amplified word where there wasn’t supposed to be any word at all. And then, I called even MORE attention to myself by saying “I’m sorry” in the microphone. I’m rolling my eyes and shaking my head just thinking about it. I’ve been trained for years not to call attention to a singing mistake by saying I’m sorry. It just makes the mistake bigger. Now I had three big amplified words where there weren’t supposed to be any words at all. sigh.

From my perspective, the congregation was completely focused on God. Then, I was the source of an abrupt interruption.

I was frustrated. I had gotten in the way. I immediately decided that I was unprepared and that I needed to work harder.

Then I went into the fellowship hall for a cup of coffee and was approached by someone I’d never met. She talked about what the music meant to her and then she said one of the things she loved was how authentic we are.


As I listened to her talk about her impression of us, she used the word vulnerable too, and I realized that I often view our worship leader as being authentic and vulnerable. But me? Not so much. She mentioned that when I messed up that morning, it allowed people to see me as a “regular person, just like everybody else. Approachable.”

ouch. Not “ouch” because she was calling me a regular person. Just the opposite. I flipped what she said. I heard: “before you messed up I didn’t see you as a regular person. I perceived you as UNapproachable.” I didn’t – and still don’t – think it was a coincidence that she picked that day to approach me.

Steve Urkel is in my head right now: “Did I do that?” Of course I did.

I’m determined to stop doing that.

So what have I been thinking and praying about?

How do I balance my striving for excellence with vulnerability and authenticity?

If you think my answer is coming next, you would be giving me way too much credit. I’m not saying I’ve figured it out. Or that I have the courage to do something about it when I do figure it out. I’m just saying I’m praying about it. A lot.

Trying to live this balance is a new striving for me. I’m still going to continue rehearsing the way I do, but I have no doubt that God had something to teach me that day, both through the mistake and the conversation that followed. When I messed up, at least two people were blessed, not only in spite of, but because of, that mistake.

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Philemon 1:7

One thing I believe the Holy Spirit is nudging me to do is to move outside my comfort zone and talk to people I don’t know. I have a tendency to put my equipment away at the end of the service and head on to the van, maybe with a stop at the sound booth. If I do go into the fellowship hall, I don’t stay very long. No matter what I do after the service, I usually only engage in conversation with people I already know. Why do I do that?

selfish. distant. chicken.

5 thoughts on “mistake? or unprepared? distant? or vulnerable?

  1. Sometimes after I sing on the worship team for three services, 6 hours later I’ve only got the “easy” thing left in me. So I’ll talk to people I know, or mostly just head out to my car. But people want our ministry to continue when we’re off the stage, they want to engage with us. I want to try harder. I really respect how much you put into learning your music. You are a wonderful servant.

  2. A willingness to be vulnerable and transparent is one way of giving up our way of getting our needs met. Allowing God alone, to meet our needs for security, satisfaction and significance frees us up even more to be a vessel in his hand to be blessed and to bless others. You are a vessel. The Holy Spirit is at work in you. You are loved. ~Jenni

  3. One of the hardest truths ever told to me was by my spiritual mentor. I was preparing for a lecture and had lost everything to a computer crash–meaning the finished lecture. I was bawling to her about how would I have time to re-create “all of my hard work”. She said, “Your greatest strength, your self sufficiency, is your greatest weakness because you are trusting in yourself and not in the Lord.”

    Ouch. But so much needed at that time in my life and still come those days when her words echo in my ears when my frustration over quest for excellence becomes way too much about me. I applaud your calling out and ruminating on it. It is a reminder I needed this week as well. Bedrest excellency is not a goal I wanted so trusting in God these days has taken a whole ‘nother dimension. Thanks as always for your thoughtful posts.

  4. This past summer our church changed from Sunday School 9:30/Church at 10:30 to only church at 10 (lack of staff to lead SS). One of the side effects? Not getting to church really early and ending at 12 and having to rush home to feed the now-really-hungry kids. We get there around 9:15 and end at 11, so there’s plenty of time to visit. Which stretches me b/c I’d rather pack up and leave as well!!

  5. An old friend recently stopped me in my tracks with that same word: Authentic. I was confiding (read, whining and worrying) to her about something I had felt led to do, prayed about for weeks, and was then feeling that it simply wasn’t going to happen (because I was second-guessing myself, and God). She told me that one of my strengths is my Authenticity. Really? Me? And there I was, thinking I’m just “not enough….whatever” (By the way, that thing I was worried about? Happened. Once again, lesson learned!)

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