Don't worry this isn't a post about dieting! Frankly, even if I was dieting, I would never lose my bacon. It's delicious. ...Now all I can think of is bacon. Where was I?...oh yes...
A few weeks ago, we had our 10th annual YoungLife Women's Retreat at Trail West in Buena Vista, CO. It is one of my favorite times of year. Time to laugh and worship and be with friends, old and new. And time for silence. Oh the blessed silence! The two and half hours of complete silence is one of my favorite part of the weekend.
During the weekend, my friend Ginger had a little part for those of us on the planning team to play. She wanted us to sing a song at the end of the weekend to wrap things up. And she wanted us to sing it loud and proud and with abandon. She kept saying, "I want you to lose your bacon."...which you can only really appreciate when you say it in kind of a southern accent. "Lose yer bacon, yall!"
Later, as she and I were talking, I confessed a weird little problem. I love to sing. Singing in a casual way with friends...I could lose my bacon. At home or in the car, by myself (a rare thing to be sure)...I am guaranteed to lose my bacon. But, anytime I sing in a way that is "performing", my chest gets a bit tight and I can't breathe properly...which makes it really hard to lose my bacon or anything else for that matter. And I can't sing they way I'm supposed to, with the kind of support my body needs to do what it's been gifted to do. That makes my dream of performing in musicals really difficult. Seriously...it's on the bucket list.
But, it's not just performing. Last week, we had a training at church for those of us who help lead music from time to time. The discussion led to closing our eyes during worship and how, though sometimes we close our eyes in authentic praise, part of our job is to interact with the congregation. To invite them along as we worship. How can we do that if we are closing our eyes for an entire song set? In fact, that can make it seems as if we are alone with the Lord and others aren't invited in (not to mention that it can make you dizzy...I've experienced that first hand.) I shared with the group that I had recently become convicted that most often, I close my eyes in worship because I am uncomfortable with my own expressiveness. I want to lift my hands, and I know at that moment, with it welling up within me, that I must! But I am embarrassed of myself, embarrassed and worried about what others might think, so I close my eyes. It's a bit like a little kid covering their eyes when they get in trouble and thinking they have disappeared. Silly. The problem is, it's not just silly. I know that I am bound by the fear of man. And now that I know, I can't just stay there.
As I talked a bit more with Ginger during our weekend, we discussed how much we worry about what other people will think. She asked me what I was hearing in my head when I performed. I knew immediately the voice I hear. It's one that says to me, "You are an impostor and everyone will know it. You are not a performer." In worship, that voice says "You are NOT free to do what comes naturally. It's embarrassing."
So, I've been sitting with the Lord and asking him about it. Not because I want everyone to think I am awesome when I can belt out notes in the middle of a performance or because I want to put on a show when we sing at church, but because I want to be free. I want always to be offering up my chains to the Lord and asking him to set me free, even when those chains are just an inability to be silly. Do I believe that he wants to free me, even from something as small as that? I do, because chains are chains. And I don't think God desires us to be bound by anything.
I'm learning that freedom is the beginning of worship. That the freedom to present our bodies, our gifts, our talents, our hearts as a living sacrifice, without restraint, is rooted in trust and in an understanding of the character of God. And that always leads us to worship. I'm not completely sure how to get there when I'm in a group, though. So, I keep sitting and I keep asking and I think, in a way, that alone is doing the work of releasing me. As I sit and learn of him, my heart becomes softer, the fear of man begins to fall away and I become enamored with who he is. I worship, with no one watching but him. I set aside some of my chains and pray that he would help me not to pick them up again. Sometimes undoing takes time. But I am an eager pupil, and He, the most patient of teachers.