Episode | November 28, 2022

Transcript for Sarah Kroger’s Episode of The Walk

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Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk; a devotionals podcast led by worship leaders. In this episode, Sarah Kroger, who’s an accomplished worship artist and songwriter, talks about the comparison trap. Here we go.

Sarah Kroger: Hey there, it’s Sarah and I wanna tell you a story about how a book changed my life forever.

Let me set the stage for you. I was 30 years old at the time. I had been a believer for most of my life. I was well into my career as a worship leader and artist and songwriter. Um, I had been married for a few years. I had a Spiritual Director at this point. I had been in therapy for years, for several things.

And so for all intents and purposes, you would think looking at my life like on paper, that everything was totally good. Uh, and then I was set right, set up for success. Uh, and yet every single time that I stepped on stage to lead worship, every single time that I stepped on stage to do a concert or something like, like that, um, I couldn’t help but hit a wall, every single time.

It was something that I could not figure out. It was a puzzle that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many people I talked to about it, there was just something off. I remember the exact moment and exactly where I was when I picked up this book called The Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, and it’s a small book, but man does it pack a punch. 

And I, uh, remember the exact moment that I started reading it. I can still picture it in my head, um, because it left such an impact on me and I basically, the basic premise of the book is this idea that every day we’re bombarded by these voices, the voices of negativity, of, um, self doubt, of lies that we believe of society, the pressures of society, the fears that we have.

All of these voices on this like negative self-talk tape loop that’s just going on in our heads. Uh, and what would it look like if we could still those voices and listen to that still small voice still strong small voice at the center of our being that calls us, “beloved.” What would it look like if we could live out of that truth instead of the lies?

And so for me, it was like a light bulb went. At that time, you know, I didn’t really have a, a church where I was mentored in songwriting or in worship leading. And so I looked a lot to other artists and other worship leaders to inspire me in that way. And so, um, a lot of times what I would end up doing is looking up to these worship leaders like Matt Maher, like Christy Nockels, all of these people who had gone before me, and I would study, honestly, I would become like a student of how they would lead worship. But what ended up happening is instead of being inspired by it, I would constantly compare myself every single time I went on stage I would think if I don’t lead, like they lead exactly how they lead, then I must not be doing a good job.

And I, I didn’t realize that I was doing it. It was, it was kind of this thing that was happening behind the scenes, but it ended up being this just comparison game, this comparison trap that I would just find myself in this constant loop of, and I couldn’t escape it. And what I, what I realized is that essentially I was just trying to be someone I was not.

I was trying to be someone that God never made me to be. I was never made to be Christy Nockels. I was never made to be Matt Maher. I was made to be Sarah Kroger. I was made to reflect the glory of God in my own very unique way, and that that was good enough. 

And so what ended up happening actually is I ended up pretty intentionally on this journey of trying to rediscover and re-root myself as a beloved child of God. And it really came to a head when COVID hit, when the pandemic happened and my career came to a screeching halt, I stopped leading worship for people. Uh, everything stopped. And I, I really had this kind of season of pruning is what I call it now. Uh, and I’m really grateful for it now because it completely changed everything for me. But at the time, man, was it hard. 

And the thing about pruning is that if you kind of study how, uh, like gardeners or vine growers prune plants, it’s actually really interesting because they have to prune the plant further than you would be comfortable with. They have to prune a branch so far back that it’s like, is this thing ever gonna grow back? I’m not really sure that it’s going to. Uh, you have to prune it so far that you really are taking a risk in some ways, but what ends up happening is that when you prune it, then the stronger branches, the stronger fruit come back even more strong. They become back even more vibrant and beautiful and you get a better crop in the end.

What ended up happening was, uh, I felt like my life and my career were being pruned in a way that was very scary to the point where honestly, I wondered if it was ever gonna come back. And because of that, um, I wasn’t able to wrap my identity in my work. I wasn’t able to compare myself to anybody else because it wasn’t about that. It was just about me and God and what he was calling me to do and who he was calling me to be. 

And so as a result of that, I’ve just been able to kind of rebuild. I’m in a rebuilding phase. I’m in a phase where God is growing back, the plant even stronger than it was before, and it’s probably the safest I’ve ever felt as a worship leader, as an artist, as a songwriter, as a child of God, because I’m in his hands for the first time and I’m resting there.

Uh, as opposed to trying to be someone that I was never made to be, I’m realizing that it’s never been about how good I am. It’s always been about how good he is and reflecting that goodness in my own beautiful way to the world.

Joshua Swanson: When we come back, Sarah will bring some words from Henri Nouwen’s book, The Life of the Beloved, and unpack some lies that we’ve all partnered with before. But first I had a great conversation with Aaron Stewart, the Co-founder of Planning Center and the sponsor of this episode. 

Aaron Stewart: We started Planning Center to solve a need in our own church. And we wanted to keep focused on solving things we cared about and that we felt like we had solutions for and at the beginning it was worship teams. As time went on, we saw a lot more areas in the church that could use our help that we gained new passions for. And so we developed products to help people give, to connect the small groups, to register for events to maintain their entire church calendar. And now we’re an entire church management system that can make sure that all of that administration from your church happens in one central place.

Joshua Swanson: Since so many of us use Planning Center to plan out our worship services, I asked Aaron, what are some of the other features that our audience should know about?

Aaron Stewart: Our People Membership Database is especially helpful to make sure that none of the people fall through the cracks, and there are lots of features to make sure that you know what’s happening in your church so that you can prevent that and reach out to people.

The second part is our group’s product, which keeps anybody in small groups or other types of groups, not only connected with each other by being able to have like a chat app on their phone, but also to make sure that they’re connected with the church as well.

Joshua Swanson: And then, finally, I asked them about some of the great stories of people using Planning Center and, and being blessed by it.

Aaron Stewart: The types of stories that I especially love hearing are from people who are bi-vocational. They have a different job and are trying to help out their church in whatever ways they can and being able to use software that they can get on their phone or from their work or from, um, from home that helps them organize the church and helps make sure that they’re following up on the people that they care about at church, um, is one of the things that I love that Planning Center empowers anybody to be able to do.

Joshua Swanson: We’ll put the link in the show notes, but of course, you can head over to www.planningcenter.com to check out more. And thanks again, Aaron, for your time.

Okay, back to Sarah Kroger.

Sarah Kroger: So I actually have a quote from The Life of the Beloved that I’d love to speak over you today. It says this, “long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love. Our preciousness, uniqueness, and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us in clock time, but by the one who has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity.” 

And let me speak this scripture verse from Isaiah 43 over you. It says, “do not fear for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine.” 

He has called you by name. You are his. And that might be a truth that we’ve heard a thousand times, or maybe this is the first time that you’ve heard it, and I pray that it would resonate with you, that it would sink deep into your bones, that you would be able to even see just a glimpse of the way that God sees you as his beloved child, and that you would be able to rest in that truth today.

That you are seen, that you are loved, that you are called by him, by name and let that be enough. Lord, I just pray that we would be able to see you at work in our lives; that we would see the ways that you are using us to reflect your glory in a very unique and specific way; that you’ve made us beautifully by your hands; that you’ve made us uniquely. That we have no one to compare ourselves to because we are perfectly and wonderfully made by you. And so help us to rest in that truth today, that we are your children and that that is enough. In your name, we pray, Jesus. Amen.

Joshua Swanson: Amen. Amen. Thank you, Sarah for that authentic testimony and for adding another book to my reading list. We’ll link out to the life of the beloved from our show notes. Sarah has a beautiful song from 2020 called Belovedness that we’ll play out this episode with.

As always, special thanks to Matt McCartie for producing and editing today’s episode. Jacob Fairclough produced our theme song. The Walk is brought to you by Worship Leader Magazine, which is an Authentic Media brand. I’m Joshua Swanson. Here’s Belovedness