The sanctuary was quiet. Empty rows of wooden pews faced an empty platform and a rugged wooden cross. Dust motes captured in streams of light were suspended in the still air. I inhaled deeply the sweet smell of blooming Easter Lilies. I sat alone at the glossy black Steinway and bowed my head.
In thirty minutes, the Holy Tuesday service would begin. I was scheduled to sing a solo, a medley of hymns including, “Just as I am”, and “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Ready to warm up and rehearse, I first closed my eyes to talk to God:
Lord, I give thanks to you today, for the opportunity to sing… to praise You…to lift you up. To you I give my voice, To You I give my song. Lord, may this be for your glory.
The Holy Tuesday afternoon service was not crowded. Staring back at me were about a hundred pair of eyes, ready to receive the message of Easter. The service began. I stood and took my place in the curve of the Steinway, mentally ready to give my all. Then, about four feet in front of me I saw the new worship pastor of our church. He was so close that I could hear him breathe. I had to block out his piercing stare as the piano played the first four bars.
I sang. I gave my heart. Each phrase I lifted to God. I tried to tie each word to an experience of His vindication in my life. I heard my voice echo in the cavernous space as the song poured out of me. When I finished, there was no applause. Like the suspended dust motes, there was a prolonged stillness. I could barely breathe. The electrifying stillness was filled with the energy of the Holy Spirit. I felt so joyous, so filled with gratitude for a loving compassionate God. I was thankful for the opportunity to sing and to praise Him.
Snapping myself out of my spiritual reverie, I moved to sit back down. The new worship pastor was still staring at me. What were those blinking eyes conveying? Was that indifference? Or approval? Did he like it? Then I couldn’t stop wondering. Did I even sound good?
My moment with God was cut short, as I began to cross-examine my performance. Each phrase was subject to mental scrutiny as I forced myself to remember how I sang each one. Were there pitch problems? Was my vibrato too pronounced? Was the crescendo diminuendo at the end too predictable? I tortured myself at the meaning of his blank blinking eyes.
Perhaps if I caught him at the end of the service and then he would give me some feedback. “Accidentally” walking into his path as he headed out of the door, he mumbled, “Great job, thanks,” and vanished into the vestibule.
My mind raced. Did he really mean that? Maybe he didn’t like my voice…
I walked out into the drizzly gray day absorbing the soft rain upon my face and behind my eyes.
Did you really do it for me? I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit in my mind.
Eagerly I answered. “Of course Lord, it was all for you.”
If it was only for me, why do you seek the approval of others?
The truth was laid bare in those words. It was ugly and raw. I forced myself to register what had become of Holy Tuesday. I worried about the opinion of one person and pushed aside the approval of the Almighty God. I had performed with a sincere heart and desired to please God, but allowed my own insecurity to keep me from receiving His blessing. I sought earthy praise and in turn received disappointment. .
The lyrics of the hymn now echoing in my soul, I turned my eyes upon Jesus. The things of this world became strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
Suddenly I became like a suspended mote of dust. Stunned by His truth and exposed by the light of His magnificent mercy, I was still.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him ;for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:8-14
Cathy Pringle is a worship leader, writer and a stay-at-home Mom to three daughters: ages 12, 10, and 7. She forestalls exhaustion by applying liberal doses of caffeine, laughter, and faith. She invites you to visit her webpage at www.momspiration.com.