As this post is publishing, I’m at my company’s Christmas party. And by now, it will have been about an hour since I took a big leap into a new experience.
When I was a child, my parents sent my sister and me to music lessons. We did piano lessons for a good five or six years, maybe a little more. I cannot play a piano now to save my life. I liked being able to play but I hated practicing and the instrument just never came naturally for me. I dropped it as soon as I could. I spent further years attending a music school, where I did flute lessons and played percussion instruments. Through all that time, I was also part of a choir.
I remember the first and only time I ever sang a solo. I was about nine years old and my music school was putting on a musical production called The Thingamajig. It was something to do with Noah’s Ark, as I recall. I played a clock or something and I had a small part to sing alone. I was a nervous wreck and, unfortunately, it showed. I was fairly young so I didn’t have the ability to tell myself that I would do fine because the choir director must have thought I was the right fit for the part or else I wouldn’t have been given the role. And I don’t recall anyone else giving me that talk. My nerves were so great that my voice wobbled and shook through the few lines I sang. Nobody had to tell me that I sounded positively awful; I knew it beyond the shadow of a doubt. Maybe my mom tried to reassure me afterwards (I don’t remember, it was all a miserable blur) but I lost my confidence for singing in public that day.
Years later while I was in university, I got up enough courage to briefly join the choir there, going through a proper audition and everything. But I thought their music was super lame and I didn’t enjoy the old-fashioned approach they were using so I dropped out after only a few weeks. That ended my public performances.
After that, there was work, work and more work. Then I let myself become tied up with someone who subtly undermined my confidence in myself in many ways; my voice quality was one of the things on the block. “You’re not that great at singing,” they would say, or something like that. I began to confine my singing to the shower or to when I was alone.
One Sunday evening about a month ago, I was at bridge club. We had a playlist going while we played cards. “Dreams” by the Cranberries came on. During my late teen years, I loved the Cranberries. I mean, love. I used to play their cassettes on repeat so much so that my mom became worried about my emotional health, since not all of their songs are super positive – a few are social commentary. Anyway, when “Dreams” came up on the playlist at bridge club, I started humming along then I messaged our resident musician – a teacher from school who’s also working on a music degree – and requested that she sing the song at our next company social function. She said sure, as long as our resident guitarist would play. The resident guitarist, who also happens to be our bridge club organiser and host, agreed and I thought it was all done and dusted.
It wasn’t. A couple of days later at school, our resident musician had a quiet conversation with me, saying that she wanted me to sing the song during the concert portion of the company Christmas party because – her words – I have a beautiful voice and she would be my backup. I have no idea why she thought I had a beautiful voice because as far as I know I hadn’t sung anything in her hearing. But I had a strong desire to say yes and give it a shot. So I did. I said yes.
At practice that same Friday night, they were pleased enough with my performance of “Dreams” that they decided that I didn’t need backup singers and they also insisted the I should sing an additional song. They wanted me to sing one with which I was familiar from my young adult days but it didn’t feel right for me so I asked them to give me a couple of days to pick a song, and they consented. I prayed on it, trying to bring to my recollection a Christmas-style song that I’ve been hearing during the last two holiday seasons. For the life of me I couldn’t remember the song – still can’t – so I put it to prayer and the song God lead me to wasn’t the one I had been trying to remember. It was “Flying Without Wings” by Westlife, made popular by Reuben Stoddart when he won American Idol several years ago. It felt like the right song. It has a positive and uplifting message to close out an old year and open a new one, and my voice handles it pretty well. Our resident musician loved it. She put it as the last song of the concert because she thinks it’s a wonderful note on which to end that section of the evening’s proceedings.
And that’s how I came to make take on my latest adventure: singing in public. But wait, there’s more.
Remember I told you about my final Secret Santa gift, the framed poster inspired by Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”? I felt very strongly that I needed to sing that song as a part of the presentation of the gift, in order for the gift to make total sense. So while you were sleeping – or whatever – I was singing three songs in public, all by myself with only guitar accompaniment and no backup singers.
I’m not the greatest singer in the world and I likely won’t ever win any awards. That doesn’t make my voice less of a gift from God. And isn’t it wonderful that He’s engineered it so that my confidence in the gift He gave me, which I allowed to go dormant, has been restored? It’s like getting two presents in one. How gracious and merciful He always is to me.
Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning. James 1:17 (GNT)