leading worship and learning to fly

I remember a night not so long ago, back in my rookie days of being a worship leader, walking out to my car one night after leading worship for our young adult group, and pretty much just weeping with frustration. There was (and is) little else I love more than leading worship, whether I'm doing it from stage or behind the scenes, with music or without - but on that particular night I felt like I'd failed so miserably. It wasn't that things had gone poorly or that people hadn't met with God - they had. But I felt so disconnected from everything that was going on, and it just seemed so... off.

How could I lead people in worship when I had absolutely no awareness or understanding of what God was doing in the room? And it had always been that way, every single time I'd ever led. I felt so... detached. I was certain there was something I was missing, that I was doing something wrong, and I began to question whether or not I was even really called to do this. I longed so much to help people connect relationally with the Lord in worship, but if I couldn't model it - if I couldn't connect - then how in the world could I ever expect to lead worship well?

My mentor, Matt, told me something that night that's stuck with me. "Hap," he said, "Leading worship is kind of like riding a bike. Once you take off the training wheels, you've got your hands full just trying not to fall off. There are so many things to think about - balance, speed, destination, where the brakes are, how and when to shift gears to make it up that hill - and it takes a ton of concentration. You don't see a whole lot of what's going on around you. But if you keep at it, if you keep practicing, there will come a day when you won't have to think about it quite so much. And you'll be biking along, and all of a sudden you'll feel the wind in your face, and you'll look up and there before you will be the most glorious sunset you've ever seen, and you'll take your hands of the handlebars, and you'll fly."

(I'm sure he said it much better than that, but that was the gist of it.) And it's given me so much hope.

I led worship this morning for the first time in awhile, and I walked into church rather wondering if today would be the day. There were moments in rehearsal this week when that metaphorical sunset was glorious; His Presence was so sweet. And every time I've played through this set over the past two weeks, joy has just bubbled up in my soul. It seemed so clear that there was going to be a moment to fly...

And from all reports, there was - and people did. And I'll be honest and say that I did sense His leading as I led, in a way that I haven't always - but it still wasn't quite the soaring I'd hoped for. It was still a lot of thinking about balance and timing and wondering if people were with us or if we'd lost them somewhere during that instrumental back there, and was I going to whack anyone with my guitar if I turned to signal our drummer to bring it down for the next verse? And why, oh, why hadn't I thought to bring a notebook for my music this morning like I usually do, and did we really have time to do both of those songs at the end of the service or should I cut one out on the fly, and.... Well. I'm sure you see where this is going. Lots of thinking, quite a bit of emotional detachment.

Oh, well. There will be other days. And honestly, I'm actually pretty happy that I can walk away from this morning knowing that in spite of the fact that there's still a constant stream of mental chatter when I'm leading, I did actually lead well today, and there's a sense in which I've finally grown up into this calling, however much growing I still have to do. I may not have felt the wind in my face - but I knew it was there.

Mark's told me more than once that he thinks God often doesn't let me see what He's doing when I lead in order to keep me humble and dependent on Him. And if that's what it takes, then I'm so okay with that. But I do have to say - those moments this week when I did fly? They were pretty amazing. Mostly because He's so amazing. And because there, in those moments, I caught the slightest glimpse of His glory.

And it was breathtaking...


HoB said...

I don't know that we are supposed to see the full sunset scene until we are united with God in Heaven. It's kinda like now, if we look directly in the sun, it can blind us. But we get glimpses of what it will be like! Certainly in worshipful moments where we're reflecting on Him. I think He choses specific times when He knows we can hear Him and when would be best for His glory.
Just some random thoughts... :)

Mike said...

Hap. Great post and you know why you see it in practice and not in the service....worry. In practice, there's absolutely no pressure and you all are just being yourselves! Take the practice to the show and BE YOURSELF!!

I agree with HoB and I was thinking along those same lines. I think that the most we'll ever see here is a glimpse and the most we'll ever know is a nugget compared to the real thing.

Having said that...isn't it awesome that you got to see a little bit?

Well done!!

Happy said...

It *was* awesome that I got to see a little bit! Both during rehearsals, *and* Sunday morning. Re-reading what I wrote, it struck me this morning that I didn't really convey my experience Sunday morning as well as I maybe could have. No, it wasn't the flying that some of our rehearsal moments held - but I still *knew* I was more in tune and in step with Him than I ever used to be able to sense at all - even in the moments when I didn't *feel* much of anything.... argh. I'm still not sure I'm explaining it well. :P The point is - I'm growing up, that's all. lol. And I LOVE being a worship leader.

@ Mike - I'm not certain that "worry" is the word I'd use. I don't really get nervous about how it'll go anymore - esp. on weeks like this one, when the set seems to plan itself. :) Oh, sure, there's still that feeling of "wow, I think I'm going to yak" for the 5 minutes before the lights go up, but I *think* that's just adrenaline, not fear or worry or anything. One of things I think I am most grateful for is that somewhere in the past three years, I've quit trying to lead worship like anyone else, and I am, as you encouraged me to be - simply myself. I've had the privilege of studying under some pretty amazing teachers, and it took me awhile to get the fact that I wasn't ever going to lead the way they do - but that God has given me my own style and my own voice, and that it goes best when I use them. :)

One of the most fun things about re-reading my blog from start to finish while editing tags and re-vamping the layout was getting to see how I've changed over the past few years, how I've grown up - and learning from who I used to be. It was also really fun to go back and read what people have said about various posts over the years - and Mike, I don't even remember how we met (probably through Heather or Rachel, lol) but I've really appreciated your wisdom. Thanks for still reading, and for pulling for me. :)

And Hols - thanks for the reminder that HE chooses the times that are best for His glory. I think you're spot on there! :) And I'm so glad for the glimpses we get here, and for the certain understated-ness of the fact that it is going to be *amazing*, when we do finally see Him.

Robert said...

Let me simply say that worship really was something else last Sunday.

I myself still battle incessant mental chatter on my opposite side of the stage, but Thank You Haps for leading worship by aiming for God and not us.

It's one of the things that drew me into Torch.