First, you MUST listen to this song. MUST. LISTEN.
Now rewind back with me about 20ish years to the awkward and dreaded middle school years. In middle school my relationship with God was just beginning. I had professed him as my savior when I was much younger, but had only recently realized He was real, alive, and always there with me. I remember I was laying on our trampoline in the backyard one night when I clearly heard Him speak to me. There are only a few times in my life I’ve heard God speak that clearly – so clear it feels audible. He said that He wanted me to serve Him with music. I remember coming in and telling my mom because it was so bewildering.
As a result, through the next 20 years I was always involved in music of some sort. I sang in our church choir, was a member of our high school chorus, played the sousaphone/tuba in our high school marching band (yes, I’m trying to dig up a picture for you…because it’s predictably hilarious!), and was even in a musical in high school. After that, I went on to join an a cappella group at NCSU, Anno Domini, and then sing as a member of the worship team at Hope Community Church in Raleigh, NC. In my mind, I had checked this call to “serve Him with music” off of my list. Done and done.
“What fortune lies beyond the stars?
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb.
I got so high to fall so far.”
Now fast forward to about 3 years ago. At this point I thought I “had it all,” and in a lot of ways I did. The directive to “serve Me with music” was tucked away in a dusty corner of my memory, because I had checked that off my list. I had already done that and had moved on to bigger and better things. I was a wife to an amazing man, a mother of 2 (about to be 3), I had a job I LOVED, working at the local church, and I was tutoring homeless children in math at a local housing ministry. We were even financially secure by the measurements of our culture (although at that time we thought we didn’t have enough income – how hilarious that seems now!!). If I had put my life on paper, it would’ve seemed so great. In fact, all of those were great things! What I wouldn’t have put on that list though was how often I struggled. I had consistent meltdowns which were made up of many tears, lots of questioning my life, and feeling overwhelmed in my schedule but underwhelmed in my soul (Lysa Terkheurst penned that phrase here, which described me exactly.)
This is the point in the story where God began to transition my life and show me my lack of surrender to Him. I became a mother of 3 (and lost my brain for a while – any moms out there feel me?), and at almost the same time God spoke to me about moving our kids from daycare to staying home with me. God has a sense of humor you know, as being a stay at home mom was never ever (ever ever) on my list of “things to do.” To top it off, we moved to a different house, in a different city when God called my husband to be a pastor. My husband took this new (very rewarding, but very demanding) job, and also signed up to begin his masters degree. I switched my job at the church to leading the childrens’ program at our campus and quit my tutoring job only to pick up a teaching job in our new city.
In summary, I went from crazy to crazier. I was in denial about the whole surrender thing. I have always been determined and headstrong. Man, was it evident during this time of my life. Looking back, I know God let me go through this to bring me to the point of surrender…and surrender is exactly what happened. At the end of that school year I cried uncle. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I looked at my life and it was NOT what I wanted. Deep down I knew I was doing a lot of things, but neglecting what really mattered. I wasn’t being the wife to Chip or mother to my children that God called me to be. I didn’t have time for relationships, time for God, time to create a nurturing home to live in, and I definitely didn’t have time to just. be. still.
“My heart beating, my soul breathing.
I found my life when I laid it down.
Upward falling, spirit soaring.
I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”
When I admitted to my lack of surrender and cried out to God, He sprang into motion. He clearly called me to give away one of my jobs, and He took the other job away. That left me JOBLESS. What?!? The girl who had had a job since middle school, the girl who loved to work, now found herself with no job. Nothing. Nada.
That was ten months ago. These ten months have been filled with a lot of hard times. I have argued with God. I have been afraid because we are living on less income than we ever have. I have had to give Him ugly feelings like anger, jealousy, and frustration. I have had something similar to an identity crisis as I realized that my whole life I had gotten my value from my work instead of my God. These ten months have been rough, but they have also shown me beauty like I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen more of who God is. I’ve felt how sweet it feels to have time to enjoy this life He has given. I now know more than I’ve ever known that He can be trusted as I’ve watched him provide for our every need. And although I still don’t know exactly what it looks like going forward, I’ve found the strength to answer “yes,” to that call He gave me way back in middle school, the first time I ever heard him speak to me.
I had never answered “yes,” to serve Him with music during my adult life because it didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense because I was the girl who excelled at school, who found success leading and problem solving. I was also the girl who had realized something consistent in each of my past musical experiences. In every one of those situations I KNEW I was surrounded by people who were infinitely more talented than me. I don’t say that to try to solicit sympathy compliments. It was and is just a fact. I could sing just fine, but there were always those people that could SANG. Know what I mean?
“I don’t have perfect pitch like many singers do.”
“I get SO nervous sometimes when I sing that I forget the words. Who does that??!”
“I can’t sing nearly as well as ___.”
“I don’t even know the names of the notes.”
“I can’t even play an instrument except for the tuba. God, the tuba does not count.”
“Why in the world would you use me to lead his church in worship?”
In Exodus 4:1-17, Moses had a similar conversation with God. You’ve gotta click the link and read it for yourself, but the quick summary is that Moses had an identity crisis. He thought he was a prince, but after murdering someone he fled to the desert where he got some sheep and a wife. Then God called him out of shepherding, and asked him to do something crazy, that didn’t make any sense. Moses confessed he wasn’t a good speaker, yet God called him to go speak to His people and to Pharaoh – the most powerful man in Moses’ world. At one point in the conversation God asked Moses what he had in his hand. It was his staff. Although his staff was just a stick, it represented who Moses was. God asked him to lay it down. When Moses did, God made it into something else entirely. It became the instrument used to make water flow from a rock and split the red sea. Just like the staff, when Moses laid down his own life, plans, will, and fears, God made his life into something else entirely. He made him into something beautiful. His name has been remembered and spoken through the ages. His name could’ve been associated with murderers, but instead it is synonymous with greatness.
What’s in your hand? What is that thing God is calling you to do? What is He calling you to lay down and surrender in order to open your hand to what God wants to give you? God knows all about surrender. He also knows all about you and what’s best for you.
“What treasure waits within Your scars?
This gift of freedom gold can’t buy.
I bought the world and sold my heart.
You traded heaven to have me again.”
“Find me here at Your feet again.
Everything I am, reaching out, I surrender.
Come sweep me up in Your love again.
And my soul will dance.
On the wings of forever.”