Failing from the Stage

My church had a Fine Arts competition when I was in high school called Music With a Purpose. I competed a few times, I don’t remember how many nor do I remember what year this happened, but I was probably 16 or so. We were out of town, and the competition was held at a hotel. I can picture the ballroom with a piano on the stage.

We were required to memorize our piece. I wasn’t accustomed to memorizing music. I had only taken piano lessons from my dad, so we never had recitals. This was a challenge for me, playing my piece from memory, in a competition complete with all the nerves and anxiety that comes with that situation.

I am a visual learner, and I have a memory where I can picture things I have read, where it was on the page, the font, etc. I remember being able to picture where I was in the sheet music as I was playing. It can be a real struggle for me to stay focused when I am playing. My mind wants to wander, and even with music, I find myself getting distracted and almost panicking when I realize it. I don’t really know what happened, all I know is that I could picture turning to the last page of the song and then my mind went blank. I think I hit a wrong chord and completely lost where I was.

I was frantic inside, I had no idea what to do. I kept playing chords to see if it sounded right. Finally, one of the evaluators said, “Just go back to a spot you can remember and continue on from there.”

That was brilliant advice to my teenage mind. I started from a spot I could recall and finished the song. I was so happy to walk off that stage yet also horrified that my friends and my youth pastor who I adored had all witnessed my failure.

Everyone was so kind and gracious to me, and as minutes passed, then hours, then days, I realized my world wasn’t going to end because of my mistake. I even played the song in church later (and managed to not forget any of it!). It was such a good, loving environment in which to experience this failure. I had the best youth pastor in the world and the best pastor I could have hoped for, and they continued to support me and encourage me every step of the way.

I have made a lot of mistakes on stage since I was 16. It has been 28 years of leading worship everywhere from tiny country churches to Assemblies of God Headquarters chapel. I am not perfect, but I am so grateful that I did not allow a fear of failure to keep me from doing something that brings my soul so much joy – leading others in worship.

If you are struggling to overcome a mistake or failure in your life, I encourage you to find support in your circle and be honest with them about the struggle. If you don’t have a circle of support around you, I know that is a hard place to be. Pray. Ask God to lead you to the right people, to bring you a few friends of the soul in this stage of your life.

Trust God to bring something good out of the failure. God used people who mess up because people who mess up are the only kind of people there are. This verse is a favorite of mine. I recall it often in my weak moments.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭73:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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