It wasn’t the first time that I failed, but it was one of the first times that I thought it was time to give up. I was old enough to be treated like an adult; past the age of being offered undue kindness or encouragement. If musical abilities were to have been nurtured, it should have happened long ago, and by now, my prime had been reached. Truly, there were many people ahead of me, more talented, more experienced, and clamoring to serve in the area of worship music. It is, arguably, one of the most rewarding things to do in a church. People will gladly do it for free, and not only that – they will consider it an honor and privilege to stand on that stage, and sing. Dangerously, it fuels a person’s self-worth, to the point of what could become a consuming pride.
So perhaps, I should be thankful that the opportunity was ripped from my hands, along with the microphone – which I had taken up like a scared little girl, though I was in my early twenties at the time. I would have been more comfortable on the piano bench, but that seat was also taken by someone with more talent. (And ten more in behind to fill her place.) This church was sure different from the ones I grew up in, where something as simple as being able to read music placed you in a distinguished category.
My musical training had been quality, but limited in scope. I learned a rather narrow version of classical piano – nothing more, nothing less. Music moved me deeply, but I lacked the ability to teach myself or learn other styles by ear, they way that some people can do. There was no music in my school, and few opportunities to sing or play together with others. What I was taught by my piano teacher, however, I learned well. I gained the admiration of my family and peers, who just so happened to know less about music than I.
Anyway – back to that stage, and the microphone that was taken from my hands. Really, it wasn’t his fault. There are only so many mics, or plug-ins, or whatever. I was the least valuable member of the band. He didn’t know that I had spent the past 15 or so years of my life studying music, slaving for hours upon hours at a piano bench. He didn’t see me practicing long into the night, striving to master Beethoven, or Bach, or Rachmaninoff. He wasn’t aware of the dreams and longings I held in my heart – all to do with music – all, painfully, unfulfilled. All he knew, was that I couldn’t sing pop harmony. In fact, I could hardly sing at all. So, I was out.
It’s been more than 10 years, and this memory still brings me to tears. The man, though I have long forgotten his name, lives on in my mind, in an undeservedly villainous kind of way. My dream died that day, and he was the one who held the bloody knife.
Since then, I have never again had the opportunity to serve in the area of church music. I realize now that too much of my identity and value were wrapped up in talent. The haves, and have-nots, the are’s, and the are-nots. Had I been given the chance to serve, I’d like to think I would have done it for the right reasons. But, who knows.
I have also come to understand, that when God “gifts” someone with amazing talent, He is giving it to the church, to bless and edify them – not to the person with the ability. Sometimes I’ve misinterpreted this, possibly by hearing the following kinds of statements: “You are so gifted”; “You have a tremendous gifting”; “God has given you a gift,” etc. Does God love the people with the “gifts,” more than the rest of us? Or did He give them those gifts to serve US, whom He loves just as much?
To this day, I probably listen to music less than any music lover in history. It’s just too painful. It doesn’t seem fair, that others have the abilities to make those sounds, while I cannot, though the desire boils within me until I could quite possibly burst. On the other hand, who will value and enjoy an excellent singer, musician, writer, artist, or whatever – more than a mediocre one, who has failed as many times as she has tried?
There was a prophetic word spoken to me recently – a single word: “Share.” The woman who spoke it did not know me, nor does she likely realize the impact that this word has had on my psyche. Share – it implies, having. Having something, of value, that can be given away to others, for their benefit.
And if this word is true, God sees a value within me that I do not. To Him, I’m a “have,” not a “have not.” This, quite possibly, could give me the courage to step out, and reach out, in whatever small ways that I can.
What lessons have you learned from failure? I would love to hear them. Please comment below if anything comes to mind.