I never knew before this year that in addition to eggs, bunnies, new dresses, and ham, the Easter season is traditionally when Handel’s Messiah is performed. Growing up, Messiah was a Christmas tradition in our house going all the way back to vinyl records. As mothers, we always hope these traditions take hold and find some treasured spot in our children’s hearts. Hopefully they are later hauled out by them when they are adults and have their own families. I fell in love with the music of Messiah on some intrinsic level and I have always played the modernized version of it, The Young Messiah, for my family.
In Junior High and High School, I was a chorus kid. We sang some high choral literature and some modern numbers too. In one production, I did choreographed steps to Broadway musical numbers and was picked to play the part of Dolly Parton for a tribute to 9 to 5. I was selected based on the very tiny waist I had at the time….something to build on. Much building had to be done to be sure. I tell all this to rewind to who I was because I’m pretty sure this would surprise people who know me now. Even my own kids did not know, and couldn’t believe, that I sang in my sister’s wedding and my brother’s as well. It is a part of myself I left behind when I started to get more insecure about myself and my very thin, sweet voice that suited a girl but was not very impressive for an adult.
My singing as an adult was limited to a few church performances I never felt good about and a lot of singing in the car. My kids had to hear me attempt to sing around the house, especially when I would pull out my tape, yep – a tape, of Young Messiah. I did not save it for Christmas or for Easter, but would listen to it whenever the mood would strike. Just this past Christmas, my tape resurfaced after a long, mysterious disappearance and I enjoyed it like it was new.
After Christmas, I saw a long-time friend of mine at the grocery store and we chatted for a while. She invited me to join her at the University here in our area to sing for their spring concert. When she said they were doing Messiah, I was very interested but dismissed it in my mind. Pick any one part of the idea. Any of it was way out of my comfort zone. If people want to see me looking confused and uncomfortable, they can come watch me play Just Dance 2 with my kids. It was a dream for another life.
I wish I could tell people every part of what moved me from “no way” to “yes” on this idea. The story would be so long and involved and would be of interest only to me. Mostly I want to mention and recommend a few things that helped me, and continue to help me. The first one is Beth Moore’s book So Long Insecurity. I read this book thinking I had outgrown a lot of my insecurities but willing to hear anything Beth Moore has to say. I learned how wrong I was and how God has created us to get past ourselves and on to spreading what we have learned to others. To over simplify her very brilliant book, it says to get over yourself and get on with being a vessel used for God.
Another book that really brought huge changes to my life is Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud. Everything in me resists books with such cliché titles and lots of pseudo-psychological terms. This book is full of them. But man if I didn’t need to learn about my Adolescent Passageway and my lack of Internal Structure. This book had the verses to back up the lingo and more insight for what the core of an issue is than any other book I had ever read. It taught me how to own who I am ( I know, I know) and then give away what God has built in me in the name of love.
The third thing I recommend is the key to the whole change. I did not sit alone and read these great books. For the first time in a long time, I stepped obediently into a small group of women to work through these things in a supportive and loving environment. One of the great lessons in Changes That Heal is that God wants to heal us through relationships. He set up the church as a group of people and He has many instructions that involve the words “one another”. When I stopped worrying about the finer points of everything that could bother me in a small group and dedicated myself to obeying God’s call to “forsake not the fellowship,” things started to change in me. It is amazing how much less cattiness, competition, and rejection you experience when you are less insecure. When I felt secure enough to let my walls down, being with women was not difficult like it had been in the past. I felt stronger in my relationships, in my family, and with my Creator.
All this was leading up to my friend’s invitation to live out a dream. Given some time to think about it, I knew it was time to take on a personal growth project. My kids are older now, my husband was entirely supportive. It was time. I went to practices where I felt afraid and out of my league. I persisted in spite of the way I felt and things improved over time. I hit the wall at one point and asked out loud to no one, “What have I got myself into?” For the first time in my adult life, with the exception of giving birth, I pushed past the panic. My heavenly Father taught me some basic but essential lessons that I needed for moving forward. I learned how to practice, practice, practice. It didn’t make perfect but it did beat back the panic and allow me to enjoy the performance as one of the highlights of my life.
So all that to say, I did it. I lived out a dream I didn’t even know I had. Through God’s impeccable timing and growing and learning, I was given the ability to stand on the center of a big, scary stage behind an intimidating orchestra with kids half my age outsinging me, and sing some of the best praise music ever composed. It was an emotional experience I will never forget. I was sad when it was over.
Now I can have the audacity to tell anyone and everyone, you can do it! Go to that group, call that friend, introduce yourself to a stranger, put down the deposit for that mission trip, or sing that song you know will speak to someone’s heart. The rewards are eternal and they are sweet. As for me, I got to come home and see my little girl, holding her Messiah program like a songbook and singing “Wonderful….Counselor….the Mighty God.” If not for yourself, do it for your children to see something God-sized going on in your life. Whatever it is, say yes to it when God takes His loving hands and scoots you forward towards the desire He placed inside you.