Pretty sure this is the longest post I’ve written to date; consider yourself warned…
God doesn’t usually speak to me in loud, boisterous ways. (S)he know that I lean more towards the rebellious side that I’m not even confortable admitting on most days. (S)He doesn’t try to domineer, shout, or force me to see, become aware, or admit anything. What usually happens is a small moment with a tender whisper that stirs my heart towards action.
Wednesday morning I was walking to the bus stop, which is not out of the ordinary in my car-less existence, but I was walking to the bus stop a bit after 7 AM (so early) since I had agreed to take on an extra shift at my school. What was also out of the ordinary is that I wasn’t wearing my headphones since they’re in the dying phase and don’t actually emit music into my ears at an enjoyable level. So I’m walking, and it’s early, and I’m not drowning out my surroundings with my own soundtrack.
Got it? Just want to make sure we’re on the same page.
I get to the stop and I just feel this overwhelming desire, urge, longing to be a painter. Or a sculpture. Or just to be an artist who creates tangible beauty, something to hang on a wall or set on a mantle. Something that people can look at for hours and something that will stir the viewer to know themselves more deeply or to know God more deeply.
I expect a lot from art.
In a brief moment and on the back of a slight breeze I feel God say to me,
“Why don’t you try to make art with what I give you already? Why do you long to be something other than what I have made you to be in this moment?”
Because God made me a writer. (S)He put a love of reading in my soul at a young age and since then I have traveled to different places and different worlds; I’ve taken on different characters and become different players in different stories; I’ve felt what it is like to love, to be loved, and to have adventures all within the pages of these books while never having to leave my room, my home, my tree house, or my neighborhood. Summers were spent at the Montgomery County Public Library where I had my own library card and would check out ten books at a time – because that’s the limit and why wouldn’t I want to go on ten different adventures? – until I’d return them all the next week and go for another ten. I loved getting lost in the stories of others.
God also made me a singer. I say that with much pain and trepidation because I haven’t sung in a very long time. It’s always caused me anxiety to sing unless it’s in a choral ensemble or in the musical theater realm, but it is through music that I most connect with emotions: heartache, celebration, love, loss, longing, delight, grief… I can’t listen to pop/rock ballads without wanting to roll the windows down and sing along at the top of my lungs. I can’t listen to sentimental songs without getting a bit weepy. I can’t listen to Eva Cassidy without feeling her voice reach down to my toes (have you heard her version of Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone? Seriously, do yourself a favor and buy it. Lie on your living room floor and close your eyes while it washes over you). Music moves me to feel, music calls me to action, music transcends my own reality and calls me to a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Divine. I love singing. There, I said it typed it.
I have realized that I became such a voracious reader as a young person because my life lacked adventure. I read even more during adolescence when my parents were divorcing as a way for me to divorce myself from my own reality. Why be present in this horrible story called My Life when I can read someone else’s story that is much more fun?
I stopped singing for some of the same reasons; everywhere I went (high school, college, etc) there was already a Girl who was known as The Singer. Need someone to help lead worship? Just ask The Singer. How about a special song for that Ceremony or Fancy Thing? Let’s see if The Singer is available. I stopped trying to sing, stopped believing that I could sing, actually. I did a solo my junior year at college in a musical review and people kept saying, “Wow, I didn’t even know you could sing!” You didn’t need to know because that role was already filled. I believed that my voice was not as important as the one whom our society deemed as The Singer. I believed what others subversively taught me about myself.
My time at Mars Hill Graduate School has been a season of understanding that I, too, have a story to tell; I, too, have a voice and it is lovely. My experience is valid, my emotions are valid, and I need to speak them (and, on some days I need to actually sing them). Space for my artistic expression exists, I simple do not recognize it or value it. Why is that? Because I’ve allowed others to define my value for too long and I’m learning – slowly, but surely, I am learning – how to take up space.
How to speak out of/about/for my experience.
How to sing without care of who is listening.
How to turn the music up LOUDLY and dance to my own rhythm.
How to stop apologizing for breathing.
I am learning to write, and to write truthfully of my own experience because no one can tell me what I have experienced didn’t happen. I am learning to sing again – my range is gone but I still find beauty in the harmonies that come from singing Alto most of my life.
I’m inviting myself into a day of silence tomorrow from sunrise to sunset, even though I am terrified of what I will learn about myself, of what I will learn about God and Her longing desires for me. I’m scared of what I will discover in my heart and what new parts of my story will be unearthed, needing care and tears to wash it clean and redeem it. Above all, I’m sad that I’m only now attempting a day of silence.
Thanks for reading. I covet your prayers tomorrow for guidance, a heart to hear, and a willingness to step into what God shows to me.