Courage Under Fire

So, I did a thing. Something I’ve been terrified of for a really long time. I sang in front of people. I’m sure some of you might think that it’s a bit odd that something I do on a regular basis would terrify me. But it’s true. I’ve been singing in front of decent sized crowds for 7 years now. And I’ve gotten used to it. Singing in front of people, in itself, doesn’t scare me. But that’s because for the last 7 seven years I’ve been singing with other people on stage along side of me. Or should I say, I’ve sang along side of them. I’ve never been the one front and centre. And I’ve been okay with that. I enjoy backing other people up. I like letting them take the lead while I help the song along with some harmony. I like watching them do their thing in the fore ground while I do my part in the back ground. I like being part of a team. I don’t mind at all. So why was I so scared?

I was alone. For the first time all eyes were on me. I knew that when I was up on stage that I would look to my right, like I’ve done so many times over the years and they wouldn’t be there. And that scared me. Having that person there was always a comforting thing for me. Something I could count on. If anything went wrong on stage, I had someone to look to that could bail me out and take the lead. Having them there with me gave me boldness and courage to sing. But this time, it was just me and I felt like the wind was taken out of my sails. All of my courage was out the window. I always felt like I couldn’t muster up enough to even try. That is until…I had nothing to lose.

This past nearly 2 years of my life has resembled the likeness of a train wreck. A high dive summersault, half tuck with a 180 degree twist that ends with a belly flop…on concrete. A long walk off a short pier. Quite literally, everything that I held dear to me was taken in one way or another. My kids, money, self esteem, pride, joy, peace…you name it. It felt like my entire life was on the chopping block. So when I was asked by friends of mine to open for them at one of their shows at our local bookstore back in the spring, I said yes. Not because I believed in myself or knew I could do it. Not because I had all the confidence in the world. Because I had nothing left. So, I said yes.

It’s funny how desperation or having nothing to lose makes you do things you wouldn’t normally do otherwise. In writing this article I started thinking about different birds of prey and how they are taught to fly. The babies aren’t aware that they have this ability. They have to be taught, otherwise they will scavenge around in the dirt like a chicken for the rest of it’s life. Different birds have different methods but they all get the job done. One bird was nudged from the nest by it’s mother. The baby flew, for a couple of seconds and then found a cliff top to land on. “Daddy” put a stop to that and flew over to where the young bird was and once again nudged him over the edge. Another scenario showed that the mother had stopped bringing food to her young and out of pure hunger and desperation, the babies took the leap of faith and gave it a go. In other cases, the mama’s stir up the nest, making it as uncomfortable as possible. After all, she built the nest, so she knows how to take it apart, stick by stick, feather by feather, until it’s so unbearable that the baby has no choice but to leave.

I’ve never been much of a risk taker. I like being spontaneous in certain situations but all in all I’ve never gone over the edge at anything and went for it. Growing up I was never the kid that got sent to the principals office. Other than your typical teenage rebellion, I did what I was told. For the most part. I’ve always preferred being comfortable and knowing what’s gonna happen next. I’m not one to strategically plan out my entire day, minute by minute, but some sort of routine makes me happy. At least I know what’s going on. So when things get uncomfortable or something changes that is out of my control, I start to panic. At the beginning of this whole “fiasco” I was definitely doing a whole lot of worrying, panicking and venting. But after 2 years of this…well…we’ll use the word “nonsense”, and no sign of it slowing down just yet, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve grown numb to the chaos. I still have my moments of venting, which my parents have graciously allowed me to do very freely (a life saver!), but all in all I’ve learned to just accept it and go with the flow. I’ve also started to see the “silver linings” through the mess.

While I don’t believe everything “bad” that happens to us is “God sent”, I do believe that it can be “God USED”, if we let it. I would never have planned something like this for myself. Ever. And it’s been difficult coming to terms with the fact that my life will never go back to what it was. But I do believe that if it wasn’t for this that I wouldn’t have learned certain lessons. I’m more empathetic, compassionate and gracious now. I’ve become more sensitive to others and what they go through or struggle with. There are songs, poems and blog posts that I’ve written that have stemmed directly out of this situation that I can now share and hopefully help others. I’ve had the opportunities to spread my creative wings and stretch beyond what I thought I could do. I’ve learned how to rely on Jesus to provide and restore my peace and my joy. I’ve learned what is important in life and what isn’t. My faith has been tested, rearranged and strengthened with a new focus on Jesus and what He said and how He interacted with people rather than being concerned with outside voices and their opinions. (It can get pretty crazy out there if you let all the outside voices in.)

And I definitely wouldn’t have had the courage to sing and play guitar in front of people that night in the bookstore, by myself. Trust me, my heart was pounding, my throat was dry and I was scared I would forget the words to my own songs! But I knew that this was a breakthrough moment for me. It literally felt like I had to push through and force myself to get through it. That on the other side was more courage and freedom and endless possibilities. When you get to a place in your life where everything has been stripped away from you and you have no control over it; congratulations! You’ve finally gotten to a place where you have nothing to lose. The good news about that is, you can go for it and if it doesn’t work out, you’re life is no worse off than it was before you got the nerve to try. The way I’ve slowly learned to view it is that it’s almost like being given a new lease on life. A do-over of sorts. All the things you’ve always wanted to do or thought about doing, but never could…until now.

After taking the leap and singing at the bookstore, I started to get a couple more opportunities to sing and play. I’ve played my songs at a regular monthly get together of singers and musicians (when work doesn’t get in the way) which has been a safe place to get comfortable playing new material. I’ve even recently played at a theatre opening up for a charity event where I was able to play four of my own songs. Which was very encouraging for me to hear an audience clapping along with me for the first time and all of the positive feedback that came afterwards. Who knows what the future holds! All of this has given me more courage to keep saying yes. Not because I’m confident in my abilities but because I’m confident that I have something to say and there are people that need to hear it. That getting my heart crushed wasn’t in vain.

The nest has been stirred. It’s been made uncomfortable for a reason. It’s the only way you’ll ever jump. It’s the only way you’ll go for it. It feels like you’re being pushed out of the nest and it might seem cruel but it’s actually because of love. Out of that fear, hunger and desperation will come, first the courage and then the ability to soar.