I stood backstage, palms sweaty and heart pounding. The congregation seated and singing praises to God on Good Friday, my eyes darting across the page in front of me, desperately trying to memorize as much as I could in the few moments that remained, wishing that I had had more time to devote to my quickly approaching performance. Mere moments before my cue to cross the stage and hit my mark, I prayed that the Spirit would take over and use me as an instrument, that what came forth through me would be His words and His intention, not mine. All too quickly my cue was given, my feet stepped out one in front of the other, the lights come up on my face, blurring into specs of color and I took a deep breath.
Four days prior to this moment I sat at my desk in a panic. I had unknowingly gotten myself into quite the predicament. I had recently agreed to do a reading for my church’s Good Friday service, thinking that what entailed was basically to get up onstage and read a Bible verse or two, but less than a week before the service I got a call from my pastor asking me how I was doing on my memorization and that we would be having a rehearsal the following Tuesday. Memorization? Rehearsal? Excuse me? I did not sign up for this. I was not informed of any memorization and I certainly did not know that I was being asked to perform a monologue. And the service is this coming Friday?!?
Not only had I realized that I was in over my head, but my oh-so-lovely character defects of fear and anxiety were swiftly rearing their ugly heads. I began to crumble. I was about to face one of the busiest weeks I’d had in recent memory and I’m supposed to set aside time I don’t even possess to prepare for this piece? I was ready to immediately throw in the towel and say no, and my pastor was willing to accept my tantrum even though it would have put him in an awkward position.
I was torn. Torn between doing what I thought was right for me by alleviating added stress from my current plate or feeling obligated to keep my pastor out of a sticky situation. At least that’s how I looked at it at the time. I was bitter. I was annoyed. I complained. I cried. I freaked out.
My heart was just not in the right place and I knew it. All I could think about was how little time I had to prepare and about all the other things I had to check off of my to do list that didn’t include the pending doom of an unprepared monologue. I sat down at my desk with my Celebrate Recovery Bible and homework staring me in the face. I took a deep breath and I prayed an irritated, angry and annoyed prayer. I asked that God would help me figure out a way out of this. I asked that His Spirit would lead me to make the right decision and that He would tell me what it was that He wanted me to do.
Never in my twenty-eight years of church going had I ever heard the voice of God the way that so many have claimed to. Never a resounding, booming voice from the sky and certainly never a message in a dream. Even though I had come to think that that would continue to never happen for me, I still asked that God would tell me what to do. So I sat and stared and prayed and read my Bible. After a few moments I came across Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”
That’s when I realized that, duh, it’s not all about me. This is Good Friday service we’re talking about. It should be all about Christ and the sacrifice He made so that I, and so many others, might know Him. I shouldn’t be complaining about serving the Lord in the very way He created me to. I should be jumping at the chance to worship Him with my talents. But I wasn’t. I was letting Satan get a foothold of me and convince me that I couldn’t do it. Then I happened upon Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
And then suddenly, without a sound, without a thought, “Obey me” passed through my lips. It came not from my heart, but from the Spirit. It was not my voice, nor was not my thought. It just was. And in that moment I knew what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why, but God would lead me, He would guide me, He would use me as His vessel and He would see me through. Even as I continued to complain, cry, panic, and struggle through the week, I knew that if I just trusted in Him, if I just allowed Him to guide me through darkness, He would bring me to the light.
So it wasn’t until that moment, right before my cue that my heart finally changed and that I felt the Spirit wash over me. My shakey, sweaty hands turned still and dry. The pounding beneath my chest ceased, and suddenly I was standing in the light. His words flowed through me without even needing to look down at them, His presence encircled me and His voice boomed all around. He had, in my mind, performed a miracle. Without Him, I would not have been able to stand there with such strength and conviction. It was everything of Him and nothing of me.
As the blurry lights dimmed and as I reached my chair backstage, the pounding returned, my fingers shook, and my palms sweat. It was as if God took my body and my will and made it His. Never in my life have I had such an out of body experience. Words truly cannot describe the sensation that overwhelmed me. I knew instantly that it was only through my struggled trust and obedience in Him that He could use me in such a way to bring glory to His Kingdom. Ever the rebel, I am finding it ironic that learning to obey my Father is certainly turning into some of the greatest lessons and the richest blessings He can bestow upon me.