On Saturday night I had a worship-leading experience that was totally new to me. We were participating in an outreach with Blanket Appalachia, and about 150 of us (approximately half youth, half adult) gathered at the end of it to share what God taught us, etc. There was also a speaker who shared with us from the word. Standard Christian pep rally. Good stuff.
I was sitting literally on the second-to-last row in the rural Baptist church sanctuary, playing solitaire on my phone waiting for the meeting to start when one of the leaders of the shindig leaned over the pew in front of me and asked if, while we waited on someone to show up I could lead folks in a few songs. Not a problem. I’ll get my guitar.
Three hymns later (the words are in the hymnal that way, and I only have to remember chords—which I did a woeful job of, as I am addicted to lead-sheets) I retreated to my spot on the second-to-last row and focused on staying awake (we’d had a really long, really good day, and I didn’t know how much preachin’ I could handle).
When we got to the end to the “every head bowed, every eye closed” portion of the event, I cheated and kept my eyes open so that I didn’t fall asleep and knock my head on the back of the pew in front of me. The preacher got done praying and we all stood (he asked us to). He pointed at me and asked if I could come down and lead the group in a few verses of “Just as I am” while he did an altar call. Actually, more accurately, he just pointed at me and then motioned the “come up here” two finger deal while explaining to the entire group that we were going to sing “Just as I am.”
Let’s pause now and cover the basic information that makes this an awkward situation. I grew up going to a Methodist church, and now I go to a Presbyterian church. This is an entire room full of Southern Baptists, who have sung “Just as I am” (all 295 verses) at every event they’ve ever been to. I’ve sung the song “Just as I Am” roughly three times in my life, and exactly zero of those times involved standing in front of a group. Nothing against the song, I just don’t have it on my iPod.
At this point, walking forward, I am flipping frantically in the hymnal to find the song so that I can at least sight-read a few of the notes. There is suddenly a pang of regret at not having paid enough atention during the sight-reading portion of music classes growing up.
I am literally blanking on the melody of this song.
To my utter joy, I learned that there was going to be a piano player helping me, as I got to the front of the room. I silently prayed that as a prelude he would play all the way through the verse, and not just do the typical “last line of the song” lead-in. I intentionally didn’t look back at him for a cue when to start, silently hoping that some loud singer in the back of the room would bail me out.
God in His grace provided just that. I was bailed out by a handful of people who could probably tell I was in a “worship-leader-as-hostage” situation. I missed about 5 notes in the first verse(singing just barely audibly), but by verse 4 I pretty much had it down well enough to sing at a reasonable volume without fear of serious embarrasment.
It’s funny how I react to situations like that. I am so insecure, under my facade. I’d like all of you to think that I have it all together. And I’m pretty good at it. I’d wager that 70% (or more) of the room was unaware I was even nervous. I’ve got a good mask. And when my mask starts to crumble off I make a joke to distract you from that fact. Clever.
I long for the day, in heaven, where I will be able to truly worship the Lord without pretense. Until then, I’ll just come to the Lord as I am, without one plea.