I hadn’t been there more than ten minutes. I’d ripped. My. Pants.
Before tonight, that had never to my recollection happened to me — other than the knee blowout or three growing up. It’s hard to calmly assess what feels to be a rather large situation that has just apparated along the upper part of your inner thigh! How did I even get here?
I got an email from a friend — acquaintance really — four days ago with whom I’d been on the worship band all of once. She was looking around for a friend to find a replacement to lead a singles group in some Christmas carols. I was not her first choice and not even sure I should volunteer. Hell, I wasn’t even the only person on the email. After the other recipient said they were unavailable, I assented to help and said I would get in touch with my acquaintance’s friend.
What I found out was that it was not just any singles group, but rather the singles group for one of the largest churches in the area. Not only that, but caroling was actually worship leading where half of the songs were worship songs, the other half Christmas carols. Get this: at their Christmas party. And there would be about a hundred people. I had committed; there was no backing out.
Fast forward a few days and I’m kneeling to start tuning my guitar in a corner of the room, “Rip!” It was the sound of my pants splitting rather violently. Right as one of the members of the sound crew were walking up to me. “You want me to bring you a chair?” he asked helpfully. “Nah, I’m just gonna sit on the floor. Honestly, I prefer the floor. I dunno,” I replied hurriedly wanting only to shoo him away so I could assess the carnage that my once whole jeans had become. It was not a small tear. And it was rather unfortunately situated.
As I tried to coolly slip away to the bathroom to visually inspect the damage, I could not help myself but to bust out laughing. I had been pretty nervous up to this point — playing music is one of the few things that really gets me nervous and I hope it always does. I thought to myself, “There is nothing more — okay, it’s unlikely that I will do anything more — embarrassing for the rest of the night!” This is great! Well, sort of. Turns out, the tear wasn’t highly visible most of the time.
Rather self-consciously, I got through the next segment of the evening without a hitch as I was seated at this point. But, it was now time for me to lead this now roomful of people in worship and caroling. The emcee for the evening read my bio — I was strangely mortified as I could feel most of the room focused on me now — and I walked up on stage. It’s something I need to work through. Flustered, I took the stage and started playing.
About halfway through the way through the first song, I felt a mighty tickle in my throat. Two-thirds of the way through, I was hoarse. Things had gone downhill. Fast. All I could do was spend all my mental capacity on making as much noise singing as I could muster and try not to burst out laughing. I was thinking, “How is this happening?”
After taking a drink and clearing my throat — attractive, I know — for a few seconds I was ready to keep on going. The second song, I decided to notice the few people — one person? I’m not sure — who were out of key and time. I didn’t have to stop, but I was aware that I was driving the struggle bus. The next few songs were just not pretty from a musical or performance standpoint. But worship happened.
And somehow I was having fun. Even more, I felt the joy that I had been anxiously anticipating. It was ugly — as far as I was concerned — but even bad worship is still beautiful. I learned something.
God had given me what I asked for — though not in the ripped pants, that was quite unasked for. I had been praying that I wouldn’t be performing, that I wouldn’t try to put on a show. I had asked that I would in that sense get out of the way. Believe me, my performance may have been the worst I can ever recall. But serving doesn’t depend on my performance; worship still happened. People still sang at the top of their lungs and God was praised — even if it was in spite of me. I’m so glad I played and sang as poorly as I did.
People even came up to me and complimented me on my music. And I didn’t selfishly reject a single compliment — no small feat. Sure, there were people being nice, but some people genuinely enjoyed the worship. I had served. Not by much contribution of my own, but I had even served successfully. Maybe this is what faithfulness looks like more often than not. Maybe serving is showing up, screwing up, and expecting God to shine up my steaming turd of an offering. Hallelujah.