My Song Is Still Being Written
What It Was Like to Sing Live For the First Time in 19 Months
I recently had a chance to sing for an event here in Minneapolis. It was my first time singing live in front of an audience since Christmas 2019.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t excited about it.
Let me explain a bit…
This might not make any sense to you as you may have seen me making records and traveling the country doing concerts for the past ten years. My heart is so full with all the incredible experiences I’ve had and all the amazing people I’ve gotten to know. I have loved the challenge of it, traveling as an actual one-man show, needing to manage all the aspects of touring—from promotion, managing all the equipment and software, partnering with promoters to make memorable events, driving thousands of miles, trying to sleep in noisy motels, all the while trying to keep my voice in shape and remember all my lyrics. You can imagine, it takes a lot out of me.
Keeping my heart in the right place might have been the most challenging part of the whole shebang.
But through it all, I’ve been fueled by seeing hope appear in people’s eyes during a particular song or something I said. Or a conversation after a concert. We all have so much in common.—the things we struggle with, and the things that bring us joy. When we come together and celebrate those things, that’s when hope blossoms through the dry soil of our challenging lives.
When the pandemic struck in early 2020, my touring screeched to a halt. I was suddenly on full-time vacation. I couldn’t even reschedule cancelled concerts, or start planning ahead to get more shows booked. It was unreal, and super refreshing. For the first time in a decade, my soul was given a reprieve from trying to maintain and build an already intrinsically challenging music career.
You can read in detail what I learned through the pandemic in my recent post:
During these horrific months watching tragedy and death happening all over the planet, I was strangely loving my new life where I could focus on not building anything. I grew in my awareness of how transactional my life had become—“I’ll do this and hope to get this.” A never-ending cycle of resentment and disappointment.
And I found professional help. I’ll never undersell the value of a great therapist. Mine has been invaluable helping me learn how to love myself apart from my performing.
My primary task lately is to learn how to let go of what people think about me.
Trying to control what people think about me has been my obsession my whole life—and my performing life has been a complicated outgrowth of that. If I could perform well enough to get people to think highly of me, then I’ll be a happy camper (and surely God will be pleased with me). But what happened was I performed a lot and got a whole bunch of people who like me because I’m a good performer! And it can feel like their appreciation for me has everything to do with what I do for them and how I make them feel…and has probably been a giant hinderance for me to be able to discover my actual self-worth and identity—even though it was considered ministry.
The gift of the pandemic has been to pull me out of this performance cycle where I’m working hard to get people to like me, and hoping to increase the size of my platform, or even in Christian terms “grow my ministry.” I’ve seen how those things…for me…have simply been rooted in my own insecurity.
To believe that God loves me, simply me, without any of my accomplishments, has been mostly unbelievable to me.
It’s becoming more and more believable now. For which I’m overjoyed. #Salvation
So to have the opportunity to sing again in front of people afforded me the chance to see how much progress I have made in these regards. What would it look like to perform and yet not care what people think about my performing? What does it mean to be a healthy performer that focuses on the audience but doesn’t derive worth and value from their pleasure or (maybe even) indifference?
I don’t know the answers to these questions yet. And that was made clear to me when I sang a couple songs for this recent event as I dipped my toes back into the water of performing. I did experience some tinges of entanglement—I believe people enjoyed what I did and I can’t help that that feels great. One person even talked to me afterward about singing at an event for her in the future. But overall, I left having not much of an idea if my singing mattered to anyone except for that one person I talked to (and the event’s host who was incredibly grateful for my singing).
I wanted to sit in that unknowing, because maybe that would be where I would discover the healthy balance between “untangled” performing and hoping to get something from the audience.
I am grateful that I’m finding self-worth and identity apart from my performing…and I’m sure I’ll continue moving in that direction. I’m just not sure what role performing will have in my life as I move forward.
So stay tuned. I’m still in progress. My song is still being written.
And I’m loving how it’s sounding.