Confessions Of A One Time Worship Leader


guitar_womanI’m really not musical.

Not unless you count the four years I spent in Elementary school playing the flute.  And even then I wasn’t very good.  My exceptionally smart best friend was always one note better than me. And the irony was that right around the time I quit in 6th grade (It’s so not cool to be in Jr. High Band), my limited-income parents had finished paying off my instrument to the music store.

But then I met my would-be husband, Chad, when I was one week away from my eighteenth birthday.

He was leading worship at a Bible study.  He was blond.  He had a guitar.  And people crowded in to hear him play.  I didn’t have to think twice.  I came home that night convinced I would marry him.

So I sat in Bible studies and in pews and in coffeehouses for years listening to him play and sing.  His voice is always clear and strong – he rarely cracks notes although he breaks guitar strings on a weekly basis.
We rarely drove to church together because of early morning practices or multiple services on Sundays.  Even though it wasn’t his full time job, he put a lot of energy into it.  I became a little resentful of the profession of worship leading because of the time requirements and the responsibilities he had at church.

We walked through and made it out the other side of a marital crisis about 5 ½ years ago.  Because of this, we both took a year off of all ministry, including his identity-creating worship leading position.  For the first time in our marriage, he was able to sit beside me during church.  During this year of therapy, healing and counseling sessions, I decided to pick up the guitar. I was 29 years old and hadn’t had an ounce of musical training since 6th grade flute.

Chad patiently taught me a few chords, showed me how to read a chord chart and reassured me that the blisters on the ends of my fingers would become calluses soon.  I played. I learned more chords.  I practiced and many times ended up not merely studying the how-to of guitar playing, but participating in a personal worship session unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. The beauty of my own (average) voice blending with clumsily-strummed chords would often be enough to bring me to tears.

For the first time since we had met, I finally begun to understand something about my husband that was never clear to me before:  I began to understand his heart and the passion that defined him.

Even though I was only leading myself in devotional worship and not standing in front of a congregation, I still was given a distinct window into the heart of my husband, the leader of Christ-followers into the throne room of God.  And it felt good to understand that part of him that was so integral to his core personality.

The women’s ministry worship leader at my church offered me an opportunity:  co-lead worship with her at our church’s upcoming women’s retreat.  I’d only been practicing for about 6 months at that point but she, like my husband, was also patient with me. She gently explained to me, from a woman’s perspective, the art of leading others into worship and met with me for months ahead of time to practice, pray and talk about worship.

I quickly began to feel inadequate.

Kathleen had such a strong voice and a keen sense of the Holy Spirit that I felt so much less than her.  I was 30 years old, but such a beginner at something both she and my husband were so proficient.  I felt unworthy, un-ready, and unsettled about my less than perfect strumming.  But I knew I was supposed to do this.

I obeyed.

And then I finally understood how much work it was.  The emotional, physical and spiritual energy that I expended that weekend was different than anything I’d ever experienced.

Embarrassment:  at my resentment for the hold worship had had on my husband in the earlier years of our marriage.  Understanding:  how much even one Sunday morning could change my own heart.  Joy: at the freedom of being the leader of my own heart into worship.  Honored: at the privilege to lead others.

After that retreat, kids, life, and writing, my real first passion, got in the way of any more worship leading.  I never led again.
In fact, I really haven’t played much since that retreat.  I’ve forgotten all the chords and the ends of my fingers have been soft for three years.  And I’m still not musical (unless you count the hymns I sing to my three year old every night as she falls asleep).

I’m sure that my role as a one-time worship leader was for purpose:  greater intimacy with my own husband and his greatest passion and greater intimacy in my own relationship with God.