Last night I sat in a room full of lovely voices. It was choir practice for this Sunday’s Easter service at my church, and my first time as a member of the choir. As a young person I always loved to sing. As as a grown-up, however, I’ve been very compartmentalized in this area.
I suppose the splitting began back in 1993 with a horribly humiliating showcase here in Nashville. It was supposed to be my crowning achievement – my chance to prove my talent to the Christian music industry and secure the recording contract that I was sure I deserved. But it was not to be.
Over the course of three months I had spent thousands to hire all the right players, produce a new demo tape (remember, this was 1993!), secure a cool venue, and ensure my attendees had good food to munch on during the show.
The event was well promoted, and thirty minutes before I was to hit the stage there was a line out the door and down the street. Industry executives and artists alike filled the room.
CCM Magazine – the holy grail for any aspiring artist at the time – had even featured me, WITH A PHOTO!, just before the event. Everything was in place to ensure that my dreams of Christian stardom were well within my reach.
How unfortunate that I came onto that stage two measures too late. How naive I was to have told the sound guy that I wouldn’t need monitors. How terrifying to realize I couldn’t hear my own voice inside my own head. How humiliating to fail so perfectly, so completely, and in front of so many people. And how ashamed I felt when no one would return calls the next morning.
The 41-year-old me weeps today for that 22-year-old girl with stars in her eyes who didn’t have anyone to sit with her in the pain of defeat, to tell her she was more than this horrible failure she had just experienced, and to remind her that God is bigger than our mistakes.
Instead, she stopped singing for ten years. When people asked her if she was “that girl from the showcase”, she lied and said “no.” Instead, she got a job in the music business, helped others chase their dreams, and decided it was safer to deny her love of music than to feel the pain of having lost it.
I didn’t realize what I was doing when I chose to “split” off that part of myself. I only knew that sending her into exile seemed the only way to survive the pain.
Struggling for Redemption
During the last ten years God has been breathing life back into this area for me. Through the support of friends and a great vocal coach, I was shocked (and pleased) to discover I still had some vocal ability.
Slowly but surely, I began to coax “her” – the exiled part of me who loves music – back out of hiding. I wrote some new songs. I recorded a little five-song EP. I was honored to record one of my songs, “To Be Free”, as part of “Tell Me What You See” – a recording by Music For the Soul to help those struggling with eating disorders.
Today, I often get to sing at my speaking engagements, and most recently, I have felt incredibly fulfilled by the release of my first music video, “More Than a Number.”
But there are still some places where she’s not been allowed to venture out.
While I’ve gotten very comfortable being bold about music again in the context of the ministry I do, for example, I’ve hung back from simple things like joining the choir at church.
It’s almost like the “onstage” Constance is ok with singing, because in that context it makes sense. People who book me already know I can sing so I feel safe boldly doing that in such settings. But the “offstage” Constance is just this mom who has three kids and doesn’t want to seem like she thinks she’s all that. That’s what got her into trouble in the first place. It feels unsafe, in some post-traumatic way, so I’ve kept myself compartmentalized.
Let the merging begin…
Sitting in that room last night was part of an intentional effort I am making to be more “merged” as a person. There is no GOD reason why I should proclaim my love of music in one part of my life only to hide it in another. This is Satan’s trick, to keep me bound up with lies about the gift, its validity, and its purpose.
As with all gifts, my love for music is for one purpose alone: to know God and to make him known. It is a gift that is appropriate to use at ALL times when it is called for, whether in front of thousands of people or in a small choir at church or just in my living room praising him at the piano.
I am a musician, ALWAYS, not just when the situation deems it “safe”. It’s who God created me to be, and I am no longer willing to split “her” off from the rest of me.
Last night, as voices joined in beautiful harmonies all around me, I sang my heart out, and my spirit swelled with joy. I am home, I realized. This is who I am, these are my people, and I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
Can’t wait for Sunday…