Surrendering the Idol in My Pocket

idol-in-my-pocket

“I can see there are ‘pockets’ in you that need healing,” my counselor told me during our first visit three weeks ago. It was good news, actually. I’ve done a lot of recovery work over the years and at this point I’d rather have pockets of problems than be wearing a full-blown bodysuit of brokenness.

Progress…

The first pocket we’ve been emptying is shame. Specifically, shame related to feeling like I’ve let down someone I respect – a small yet important distinction.

The truth is, I don’t care what everyone thinks. As an author, speaker and ministry leader, I’ve heard lots of negative things about myself over the years from people who think I’m too outspoken, too aggressive, too thin, too busy, too fill-in-the-blank for their liking. It kinda goes with the territory.

And while I don’t love criticism, I’ve learned to shrug it off, especially when it comes from someone I don’t deem “worthy” of my respect. Unattractive as that sounds, I know I’m not alone in employing this pain-management utility. There are simply certain people we care more about impressing than others.

People we think can deliver the greatness we long for…

It’s in all of us, I believe, this desire to do something great. To be significant. To make a lasting imprint. We should desire these things because we’ve been created in God’s image, and he is nothing if not great, significant and lasting.

Like those who fashion idols out of wood, however, we’ve made talismans of people we think have the power to greenlight our future, or to stop it cold if we make one wrong move. When we lose their affirmation, our pockets fill with shame and fear, suffocating our hope that we will ever experience the greatness we were hard-wired to crave.

No man is worthy of such worship.

For those who have answered the call of Christ, laying down our idol of man’s approval is the key to the greatness we seek. We are most alive, and most powerful for the kingdom, when we disregard what is popular and choose to walk fully in God’s divine purpose and call for our lives.

The call to speak truth without compromise.

The call to love without being loved in return.

The call to risk rejection for what is right.

When we lean into the call before us, we become more of who we were created to be. More of who we want to be. And we remember God’s truth, that no man is big enough to silence our voices, and no idol can get in the way of what God wants to do next.

As long as we don’t keep it in our pocket.

 

 

Tale of a Once-Silenced Singer

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.

Showcasing Shame

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.

I was so thrilled to appear in this mag! Little did I know what was coming…

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.

God’s promises were made new to me when I got to be part of this!

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.

Until now.

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…

 

More Than a Number Video is LIVE!!!

Twenty-two years ago God gave me a vision to help those with eating and body image issues. It was birthed during a season when my own eating was so out of control that I sometimes wanted to curl up and die.

As a young girl I had watched my mother struggle with diets, anorexia and bulimia, and there I was, at nineteen, wrestling the same demons.

Some of you know my story, so you know that ten years after the vision was birthed, I resigned from my job at EMI Christian Music Group and founded the non-profit FINDINGbalance. Today we serve thousands of people each month through our video on demand website. I’ve gotten to publish books and curriculum to help other women break free, and I get to speak to thousands more through tours like Girls of Grace, Sex and Skinny, and dates I do with Compassion International.

It sounds big – and the work IS big – but I still run FINDINGbalance nearly by myself. It has truly been a labor of love in the midst of raising three kiddos and trying to operate on a shoestring budget. But on those (many) days when I’ve felt burned out and ready to quit, it’s been the vision that has kept me going. And the creative aspects…

You see, my guilty pleasure is – and has always been – music.

I moved to Nashville about twenty years ago to try and make it as a Christian artist. I thought that would be how God would use me to reach people for this issue. My journey has of course led me down different paths, but God is good and he loves music too and today I am so very proud and humbled to share with you a song I wrote which I hope further fuels my efforts to help women, girls (and guys) escape the dead-end life of disordered eating and dieting, so they can be freer to change our world.

For those of you who think your dreams can’t come true, I’m living proof that it’s never too late. I shot my first music video in KENYA at the age of 41! Anything is possible.

And so, without further ado, here it is. If you like it, share it. Let’s start something really big…

Credits…

Special thanks go to Jonathan Dimmel and Geoff Hunker from Satellites and Sirens, who directed; Lindsey Labadie, who performed beautifully as the American woman in the video, “Nashipi” – our precious girl in Kenya, and Mike Varel, Ryan O’Quinn and the others on the team with Compassion International who made it possible for me to shoot this as legit as possible. We shot on location at Jackie M.’s place downtown Nashville. Makeup by Paige Omartian. Many generous contributions made this work possible and I am so very grateful to all of you.

Walking in the Fullness of our Gifts and Calling

This morning I got to speak to a room full of people just like me; dreamers who’ve been given creative gifts and want to know how to make it all happen. The key point I shared with them? It’s not about making it all happen. It’s a lesson I’ve spent many years learning.

You see, I’m good at a lot of things. I’m not bragging, just being honest. I happen to have been blessed with high left AND right brain functionality. Unfortunately, I’m often so busy using the left half (the productive part) that I completely ignore the right half (the creative part). I’ve been known to do this for weeks, months, years even.

And then a day like today wakes me up.

As I stood on that stage and shared God’s truth, it was the first time in awhile that I felt like I was truly operating in my giftings. I was sharing truth God has shown me over the years, in a way that he has uniquely gifted me to do. And I loved every minute of it, including talking with people one-on-one afterward.

This latter part used to be a struggle for me, because in earlier years I was less integrated with myself (this makes sense to those of us who have lived it…), and I was terrified that the rift between my on-stage persona and the “real life” me would disappoint people. And would leave me feeling lonely. So instead, I kept my distance. And guess what? Felt even lonelier…

I’m grateful for wise counsel over the years which has helped me over this hump, because today all I could think about was how good it was to be broken and spilled out on that stage, not for my own vain pursuits, but for the sake of The Call. I was operating fully in my giftings, and I can’t remember when I’ve felt so alive.

As I left the speaking engagement and headed to my next appointment, the energy inside of me was intense. I put on one of my favorite cd’s; I needed something with a beat that matched the excitement stirring in my soul. After a few songs, the adrenaline starting to diminish, I felt tears come as I thought back through the morning – the way I had felt so alive, the way I was so present – not vying for ANYTHING other than to just join God in a movement of his own. The only movement that really matters.

As if this wasn’t enough, my next appointment was to hear the nearly-finished production of a new song I’ve written, “More Than a Number.” (I will be performing this live for the first time at Girls of Grace this weekend – can’t wait!.) I walked in as the producers were listening to it and when it got to the end I literally screamed with joy! (They were a little freaked out but I didn’t care.) For years I have loved music, but for years I have put it on the back burner, so afraid of not doing well that I’ve not done it at all. Another gift squandered, yet redeemed. In moments like today.

As I head into the afternoon of what has already been an incredibly exciting and fulfilling day, it is with a grateful heart and an overwhelming understanding that THIS is how we are to live: walking in our giftings, whatever they may be. Operating at our fullest potential, as determined NOT by what we produce, but who we are while we’re producing it.

Whatever your gift(s) may be, please hear me say this today: they are not going anywhere! Even if your dream has died, God will bring it back to life. Lean into Him, and be part of his movement. And then give him the glory when the dream comes true.

Today I was me. More fully and completely than I have been in a while. I was brave, and bold, and beautiful. And it sure felt good…

For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; never canceled or rescinded.” Rom. 11:29