When I was around fifteen, I received my first lesson in public humiliation. It was at a monthly Youth Rally, when all the youth groups in our district came together.
I sang in a trio with my friends who were sisters, Linda and Jodi. My sister played the piano for us. When it came time for the yearly Teen Talent competition in our denomination, we entered. My sister Linda picked out a beautiful song and coached us. I was shy and out of my comfort zone singing any place except our church, so I prayed fervently for God’s help and anointing, as I’m sure the others did.
We were so pleased when we won the first round and were selected to represent our district at the state competition. More practicing. More praying. We only placed second, so we didn’t make it to the National competition. But it was great fun and a good experience.
So back to that local Youth Rally. The head of the district Rally had taken a shine to us, so when he saw us in the audience, he called us up to sing a special. Well, we didn’t have sheet music for any of the songs we sang, and my sister wasn’t there to play for us. No practice. No praying for God to anoint the song to people’s hearts. Just us….and the pressure of being called up by surprise.
My friends were ready and eager. Another one of our friends could play for us; we could sing a song out of the hymn book. We’d be fine. I resisted… until I stopped resisting. The minister was saying such glowing things about how beautifully we sang and how well we represented our district. So, I thought, Sure. We can do this.
We sang a hymn we knew well. But there was no three-part harmony going on. Normally, I sang alto, Jodi sang second soprano, and Linda sang soprano. But there was no second soprano part, so Jodi mainly sang the alto part. If I had just sung it along with her, we would have been o.k. But I kept trying to find a third harmony part…..and fell flat on my face. Pride goes before a fall and…..SPLAT! I fell big time!
When we slunked back to our seats, I noticed our entire youth group was slumped down in the pew as low as they could get without sliding off; their heads down; eyes on the ground. I slumped down with them! The poor minister didn’t know what to say.
WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST LET LINDA AND JODI SING A DUET? I shouted at myself inside my mind. In my heart, I knew why. PRIDE. As I listened to the minister rave about us, I started believing his words. What I knew, in reality, is the only reason we ever sang well was because we practiced hard, prayed hard, and sincerely depended on the Lord.
I’m glad I learned that lesson early in life. I’ve learned that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I’ve also learned “I can of my own self do nothing” (John 5:30).
So, since then, whatever I’ve done in ministry . . . sing . . . teach . . . direct plays . . . write . . . I seek God first. I seek His direction; His purpose for me; His ideas and creativity; and, most of all, His anointing. Otherwise, what I do would be a lot of noise. I want to be a vessel of honor that God uses to bring glory to Himself.
That’s not to say that pride hasn’t reared its ugly head in me again. It’s just that God helps me recognize it for what it is and helps me remember that lesson I learned so long ago as a big-headed teenager whose bubble was popped in a very public way. Thank God for His lessons!