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...