Someone once told me it is a good idea to “lead with your junk”- to bravely let people know up front who they are dealing with. So, friends, let me put it right out there: I am a control freak. (Or, as I prefer to call it, comfortably prepared for any and all situations.) I plan. I overthink. I live for list-making and agenda-keeping. I love to be mentally ready for what’s coming next. Yet, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but there is this whole world outside of ourselves that we can not control, and situations that we can’t see coming. I do not like this one bit. I am often found dangling between the steadiness of the safe world I’ve created for myself and the chasm of reality below me like a rock climber on the face of a cliff.
Guess what I discovered: you can only hold onto that cliff for so long before your body gives out.
Don't cling so hard, trust me.
I've tried it. For much of my time as a worship leader I have been overthinking, over-preparing, and over-performing. I have been striving to create atmospheres in a worship service that make me feel comfortable rather than letting the Holy Spirit stretch and refine me. I've been clinging to the cliff face for fear I might fall. Guess what my results were? Crippling anxiety, multiple burnouts, and a serious disillusionment with corporate worship in general.
(I know for a fact I’m not alone in this, by the way.)
Letting go works better. I've tried it.
We all long for those moments in a worship service where we can “go off-script”. As much as I love a service to be planned and well-executed, it can be so liberating to let go of that cliff and dive into the freedom of God like that. But In my effort to control, I didn't recognize the work of the Holy Spirit because that holy work doesn’t always look how we think it should. Sometimes following the Holy Spirit feels terrifying and difficult to say yes to in the moment.
Story-time! The time when I tried it.
Just a couple months ago I was leading worship at a youth camp. Now, I mentioned that I struggle with anxiety. Like, deep life-altering anxiety. The kind where I need medication and therapy. (No shame!)
So, I’m standing on stage with my husband at 7am in the middle of leading worship, and I can feel a panic attack rising. I briefly think, “this was NOT part of the service plan.” It escalates to the point where I either need to put my guitar down and walk off stage, or I stop and tell these students why I’m no longer able to sing. And then I felt that Holy nudge.
So, I stopped.
I told them what I was feeling and that I knew God wanted me to speak it out loud. I told them that anxiety is scary but it’s no match for Jesus. I told them that we could worship through it but at that moment I needed THEM to lead ME.
I went off-script in the most unconventional of ways.
..but you know what? Those kids sang like nothing I’ve ever heard before. When I opened my mouth to speak I was teetering somewhere between embarrassment and failure as a leader. But somehow God used my brutal vulnerability to tear down barriers and make others feel seen and known.
Sometimes we need to be less about our stage presence and more about our humanity.
So, friends, let’s forget the plans. Let’s allow ourselves to be caught off guard by something we never saw coming. Leave room for wonder. Let go of the cliff and free fall into the great depths of the Divine.
Trust me, it works. I've tried it. :)