It may not be Friday, but consider this as “Faithful Fridays: Easter Edition”.
Confession: I do not know how to sing “with feelings.”
If I have ever known how it is, then I am afraid that somewhere along the way, I have forgotten.
Touched but untouching
I find it strange, really. I am easily swayed by music. I always have to stop what I am doing when I hear the Philippine Madrigal Singers’ rendition of Sana Maulit Muli (Gary Valenciano), and I always end up teary-eyed at the climax and with the urge to run to the lover who has wronged me and to say that I forgive him… when I do not have such a lover in the first place 😛 !
I am swayed by visual arts — from the simplest scribble, to the most complex animation sequence and cinematography. If I could hold my breath for the duration of an entire musical production, I would. I am turned on (haha) by sights and sounds that appeal to my feelings and it does become hard to tear me away from it.
I cannot control my smile over the sight of nature, and I always feel like crying at the sight of sunrises and sunsets, and how they color the sky and the clouds. I am left breathless and in awe.
I claim to be an artist. I am touched by art and beautiful things, yet I struggle in expressing the like.
Today, I have received some “coaching” from my worship leader, Pastor Joel, and from kuya Jun, one of the music ministry’s mentors. In my exhaustion (I am on the graveyard shift, and my worship service assignment is on Sunday mornings), once I got home, I ended up crying.
It was not because of the coaching, mind! It was because I felt that I messed up, big time — and that I have done nothing but mess up since day one. It lead me to question as to why I was allowed in the team in the first place. Why am I still being put up in the roster? Why can I be not as good as everyone is?
I also started doubting the call to lead. I started feeling as if this was a cruel joke by God, like a carrot-on-a-stick kind of thing, like I was being shown another thing that I cannot do. But I know it is not (2 Timothy 1:7).
Once I have rested and prayed, I decided to pinpoint where I have gone wrong. See, the coaching did not involve my technique or capacity to sing, but it involved being able to internalize the lyrics of the song and to sing from my heart — to make what I do less like singing and more like worship.
(Oddly enough, I was reminded of Tokiya’s initial struggle with singing “with heart” in Uta no Prince-sama: Maji Love 1000%, and how hearing the song, Amazing Grace, reminded him of why he loved singing in the first place.)
My question was then was, “How?”
I ran through all of the things I have read and learned so far about musical worship: how I should do my daily Bible reading and devotionals, how I should “soak in the word” before even showing up to rehearsals, how my life should be “a life of worship” and that what happens on Sunday is just an overflow, how I should know the song’s form so as I could “flow”, etc.
I know all that, but what am I doing wrong?
The question lead me to look back as to how I have treated singing (and by extension, music playing, drawing and writing) in the recent past: it became mechanical. It became all about ticking the right boxes so as I could produce what I thought would be pleasing to my listeners, to my audience — my judges.
In terms of worship, I thought that I if I did everything that my pastor and my mentors told me to the letter, I would be golden. Ultimately however, it is not about what goes on between me and them, or between me and the service attendees: it is about what is between me and the song’s message, between me and the Biblical truth of what God wants to say through certain songs.
See: if I do not believe the word of God; if I do not internalize it; if I do not bask in the truth that the freedom I enjoy was paid for once and for all by the most royal of blood; and that the God I worship is limitless and awesome and loving and fearsome — then I am no better than a marionette being tugged by strings. A Vocaloid would have more feelings than I do.
To fall in love again
So I prayed — I asked God to give me passion, to teach me how to fall in love His way. I was then lead to recall how I would give up sleep just so I could draw and write whatever it was in my head; how I would listen to a song on repeat because I could not get enough of the emotions it was stirring in me; how I did not care being seen like a weirdo or like an uncool nerd over a literary tidbit or a piece of scientific discovery…
And how I held back tears as I sang with the Orfeón singers, Lead Me, Lord, and Amor de mi Alma as they have become personal prayers.
See, I know how it is to grow addicted to the feelings attached to something, but worship works in reverse: passion happens first in the heart of the worshiper, before they even open their mouths to speak or to sing. This passion has a source: God did not hold back on His love, Jesus did not hold back on the will of the Father for Him. Which is therefore why we can enjoy the freedom from sin and the sting of death through the Passion of Jesus Christ (see? Lent 😀 !)
I read the verse up on top on Saturday evening through a Proverbs 31 Ministries Facebook post. It did not make sense to me then, but it speaks to me now: the morning — the next chance — brings with it renewed love, renewed mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23). There is joy, and there is God’s untiring and unrelenting loving-kindness to work in you and through you. He is not done, and He will not give up on you.
My passion does not come from me — I am limited. My passion comes from the One who loves me with such a love that He made me, He died for me, and with every morning, He declares His love for me.
Call to leadership
God does not call you by your failures — He calls you to what He created you to be.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and useless condemnation, instead of falling into the temptation of running away (a bad habit I am kicking to the curb — more on that in a future post), I replayed Pastor Joel’s advice in my mind: to continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus; and to be more specific: to start discipling others.
I believe I have the gift of leadership — albeit a gift in the rough, and admittedly, I have done ridiculous and hurtful things in abusing this gift. Now, I want to do things right — to do things God’s way (see: Book of Daniel).
I know now where to direct my prayers: to disciple people, to encourage my peers, and to do so with passion. I do not know how, when, and with whom, but I pray that I will answer and speak when the call comes. I will answer the call to lead, and to do what is necessary out of love, passion, and gratitude. God has not given up on me, and neither has Pastor Joel and kuya Jun — and for that, I am truly thankful.
I know that it will cost me time, energy, and finances — but passion, if Jesus’ example is any indication, is costly. While waiting, however, I will write — I know I will need these “notes” later. 😉