ON SUNDAY I sang with the praise team at church. The team consists of four other young women and the music director/pianist, Osman. He works his magic on the synth to bust out beats and melodies to accompany the songs. It’s impressive.
A decade of music ministry could not keep my voice from shaking as I shared Psalm 121:1-2. Memorizing those verses was my solution to Osman’s request for me to pray. I wondered if the congregants could make out the beautiful words beneath my North American accent.
I started to sing. My voice sounded like gravel from a month of underuse. My left ear, still plugged from last week’s beach outing, made it hard to know if I was on pitch. Still I was honored to have the opportunity to serve in such a tangible way – and happy to sing one of my new favorites, Renuévame (see below).
As we sang, I really wanted to lose myself in the moment, eyes closed, arms outstretched, just as I’ve done so many times before. But something held me back.
Music ministry is a struggle for me. On the one hand, music has always been the most intimate way for me to connect with God. I love singing. I love running my fingers along the keys or the strings as an offering of praise. I love being able to express myself truly and completely before God without saying a word.
But put me in front of a crowd, and the pressure to perform, to impress, to be perfect, permeates even the purest of intentions. Add on the challenge of speaking and singing another language, and I become very self-conscious.
What held me back yesterday was the fear of inauthenticity. It felt insincere to offer wholehearted worship in a language I can barely comprehend. I felt like I didn’t have the right to do that. And I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself than I already did as the only English-speaking-Chinese-American in the room.
If I could turn back the clock, I would’ve plucked that fear out by the roots and chucked it far away. I would’ve replaced it with the assurance that the ultimate value of a song offering is not in how it sounds but in the One to whom it is offered.
Now I remember
how the Bible talks about the nations worshiping God,
how John saw people from “all tribes and peoples and languages” standing before the throne of God (Revelation 7:9-10),
how the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, enabled people to declare the wonders of God in their own native language (Acts 2).
God understands even my broken Spanish.
After service, I was told to keep the black outfit I had borrowed for the morning. “You’ll need it for next time,” they said.
I’m glad I get to try again. Until then I’ll be listening to Renuévame on repeat. ^^ (The singing starts at 0:40.)