On Inadequacy

The feeling of inadequacy is not one I thought I was familiar with. Growing up in a family filled with Christ-following, musically talented, athletically skilled, and educationally gifted individuals, it’s actually slightly shocking that it took this long for me to realize the expectations that I placed upon myself. I began to recognize this fear on the trip I went on last week, Wakefest, with my high school ministry. But as I mentioned in my last post, I felt spiritually renewed in this same week, and until recently, I thought that meant I was fixed emotionally. Silly me. But it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I finally broke. 

Well, it actually started when my brother Cade broke. Literally. He broke his wrist playing basketball on Saturday, so that unfortunately did not really allow for him to play guitar and lead worship as he was scheduled to… Which meant I was up for bat. Not only that, but the people I would normally recruit to sing or play with me were all in the main service playing. I had done solo worship before, but for some reason, this time terrified me. I quickly organized a setlist of songs and tried to prepare for the next morning’s worship.

When I came in to rehearse the next morning, I had every excuse lined up to explain to the youth group how I may not sound good. Cade was there to coach me along in making songs build and helping me use my voice to create dynamics, rather than relying on my guitar.

At one point, when I was getting frustrated at how I don’t know how to use my diaphragm well to project, he graciously asked whether he could demonstrate. He began singing Be Thou My Vision, and I almost burst into tears. I’ve heard him sing a million times before, but not this intimately. His voice led. That’s the only way I can put it. It ached with passion and depth. Instead of gratitude, the posture that should be instinct, my admiration of my brother turned inward, and I suddenly became filled with dread that I couldn’t live up to him. I stared at my guitar: the beautiful guitar that members of my church secretly bought for me. I felt so unworthy and undeserving; me, an average guitar player, with this glorious and expensive instrument that I could play the classic worship chords on and not much more. After he finished singing, I went back to rehearse on my own, and I gave up– mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish a line without crying.

Worship is the essential overflow of awe pointed at our God. It should be the least self-centered thing we do as followers of Jesus. Yet, so often, I find my attitude so self-focused. Will I sound musical? Will I lead well? What will people think of me? It’s those incredibly sly ways that the Enemy attempts to pull us away from Christ.

My fear of not being good enough is one I have been in denial about for pretty much my whole life. When pastors mention not feeling enough before God, I’ve always inwardly felt sorry for those people. Unfortunately, it seems that the older I’ve gotten, the more I see that I am a member of those people. I have found ways to compare myself not just within my family, but as an upperclassman in high school, competition is fiercer than ever in classes, sports, music, theatre, and beyond. 

Being involved in all of those things, I have been very careful not to place my identity in them. However, I decided to place who I was in a different endeavor: being the likeable girl; a carefully constructed good, likeable girl. She works hard, but she knows when to laugh; she’s a leader, but she isn’t bossy; she can hold a good conversation with almost anyone, but she doesn’t push friendships very hard. It’s excruciatingly frustrating to recognize this and not to be able to fix it– at least on my own, especially after a trip like Wakefest where I felt that the world was at my fingertips. It turns out that drawing closer to God involves dealing with my crap. Dangit. But this tug-of-war that I play against myself is nothing compared to all of God’s glory. All I need to do is surrender, and what follows is the purest form of freedom.

I remember at Wakefest, after one of my closest friends got baptized, she looked at me, eyes spilling with tears and lit up with joy, and said “Whenever there is that fork in the road, I’ll remember this moment and choose Jesus.” God doesn’t call me to be a “good person.” He calls me to choose Jesus. It’s not simply a one-time decision, but rather, as 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds me, it is relying on the Holy Spirit for power, love, and self-discipline at every moment.

So back to worship. On Sunday, after a good cry with a cherished friend who gently walked me back to my identity in Christ, I went back onto that stage and stared at my guitar once again. With a heart of gratitude, I took a breath and pleaded to God, “Lead me.”

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