Do you remember the song "Fame?" The lyrics go like this.....
I feel it comin' together
People will see me and cry, fame
I'm gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I'm gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name
Remember, remember, remember, remember
Remember, remember, remember, remember
Irene Cara spoke to baby Sarah's heart in the 80's. Fame and the also popular theme song to Flashdance, "What a feeling!" were theme songs to my life. Title tracks, that lead me to create plays, performances and sing for anyone that would sit still long enough to watch me. Being in front of a crowd was the best thing in the world to baby Sarah. I wanted to light up the sky like a flame!
To change gears a bit, did you ever have God teach you something that you did not want to admit to people because it made you look really foolish and bad? No, just me? It does not help that one of my spiritual gifts is messing up so bad that it cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. What can I say, I am larger than life, I wanna light up the sky like a flame! Also it is embarrassing to admit but I seem to be the last to know about my screw ups. Like, every one saw it coming but me. It's just a shot in the dark here but maybe that is because I am too busy worrying about people remembering my name? So join me on this tale of woe, as I explain to you what God taught me about fame.
God is smart. He knew that He had to get me interested in church enough to keep me coming back so eventually I would hear the gospel and be saved. I am super glad He woo's each of us in the exact perfect way to get our attention. Mine was seeing the worship team at church for the first time. I never knew God was ok with bands, this was a revelation! My friend Autumn invited me to church and was on the worship team. I remember distinctly baby Sarah standing up and shouting inside me, "Fame! I wanna live forever!" when I saw the microphones, instruments and band members. A thought was born in my mind, "I wonder if they would let me sing?" I wasn't even a believer yet! But that thought took hold. I did keep going to church and did eventually get saved a month later. It saved my life, literally.
I did join the worship team. Baby Christian Sarah was on fire for the Lord. I wanted to be in everything to do with God. I wanted more and more of Him. Baby Christian Sarah and Baby Fame Sarah joined hands and skipped all the way to the first worship set I got to lead. It was the best thing in the world. I found something that really gave me life in a time when things were falling apart. (See blog post on marriage) However, something started to happen inside of me. Baby Christian Sarah loved singing praises to the Lord no matter what. Baby Fame Sarah wanted more of the spotlight for herself, and the war between the new Sarah and the old Sarah was started.
If I have duped you into believing I am a perfect christian please read no further because you opinion of me will be dashed. The point of this blog is to be a real Christian trying to follow Christ and to record what He is doing in my life. This lesson changed the trajectory of my life, so this was a big thing for me.
Here's what started to happen. I would lead worship, and when the set was over I expected people to say did a great job. If they didn't I was wounded. The schedule would come out and I would be angry that I was only leading once a month. How could people remember my name if they only saw me once a month? I would be jealous of other female singers if I thought they were better than me. I would be angry with the worship pastor for not letting me lead a song. I would ask my husband if he could hear me to be sure that my microphone was turned up enough. I would move heaven and earth and put my family aside to say yes to a worship gig. Basically, I had to be up there, I had to be heard, I had to have the spotlight.
Here is where the conflict happens. Do you see that list above. It can be broken down to these simple fruits of the flesh:
Galatians 5: 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
I have underlined for you the ones that I was fostering while I was trying to lead worship. Time after time I would stand up to lead God's people in praises to Him and all the while I would be sowing fruit of the flesh. For sure God still used my worship because He is so big that He can use this wretch to reach other people no matter where my heart is. The struggle became bigger and bigger the more I learned what the fruit of the Spirit are. (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) I was convicted by the Spirit that I was sowing to my own flesh. I could see that I was causing dissention on the team. I could see that I was hurting our worship pastor (who happens also to be my best friends husband, there by hurting that relationship too.) I didn't know what to do or how to stop, and I had been leading worship for so long I felt like I could not tell people that I was struggling in these ways.
I even went to a convention with Beth Moore and Christy Nockles and submitted a question because no body knew me there. I asked Christy, "If you struggle with not being put on the schedule, not leading songs, and submitting to the worship leader should you still lead worship or should you step down?" There were 900 questions submitted and out of all of them she pick MINE! FAME! I'm gonna live forever! Just kidding! But seriously she did pick mine so don't ever tell me God is not pursing me and trying to teach me. Her answer was amazing. She said, "We have all struggled with being the background singer. I have been in places where I did not lead songs and was just the background vocals. The problem comes with the motive. If you are leading worship to lead God's people into God's presence, you are fine. If you are leading them to lead them into your presence then you will continue to struggle. If you can't get your flesh under control it would be healthier to step back for a bit." My heart sank when I heard those words. I think somewhere inside I knew that was what was coming but I was stuck in the "I lead worship, that is who I am," mentality. What would happen to me if i didn't lead worship. Who would see baby Sarah performing????? Oh right! You would God.
I wish my tale ended with me coming home from that conference and stepping down to allow time for spiritual growth. But no, alas my gifting includes screwing up so big that everyone knows about it. We are coming up on a year since my, uh, "breakdown?" (See "I can't get around writing about this blog post.") I tried to lead worship a few more months after the conference. I buckled down and demanded my mind and heart to produce fruit of the Spirit. The problem with that is I can't produce that fruit. I can only produce the other fruit of the flesh. I needed time to work with God and to be transformed, but I was scared to death to let go of worship because it felt like who I was. But in a small moment of bravery, I was able to muster the trust in my Good Good Father required to take the leap necessary to step down. If I am being totally honest the conversation with my worship leader was more of a "you can't fire me I quit" kind of moment but who is keeping score? Certainly not me, that is not a fruit of the Spirit.
And so there I was, not a worship leader anymore. The good news is I had so much emotional stuff to deal with at that time I didn't notice not having it on my schedule. Until I showed up and church and was not on stage. It was humbling. It was hard. It was humiliating. I dreaded the, "how come you are not leading worship?" conversations. Mercifully, God arranged for me to have to have an ovary out at the same time so that was an easy answer. He is kind that way. (HaHa) And so the journey began of me not leading worship.
I feel like after a tale like that I should switch fonts so you know how much God has changed my heart. I don't feel up to the task to adequately explain the sifting that has occurred. Let me say it this way: stepping down from worship is the best thing I ever did. Here's why.....
I learned that what baby Sarah needed to know is that she is seen by the Almighty God and that being seen by Him fills up that need to be famous. That my "non-lighting up the sky life" is the exact plan he has for me right now. And that is right where I need to be.
I learned that when you are involved in something and you cause dissension, you stifle the growth of that ministry. It has been humbling but also the greatest gift to see the worship team at my church grow into a healthy vibrant team full of all different talents and voices and styles. I literally gush over them I love them so much. I went from a worship leader to the biggest groupie, only because of God leading me. For sure I still struggle with not being "on the team." It feels like I got left behind sometimes, but that is just to old self wondering if I am being left out. I am trying not to believe that lie. It's a process.
I also learned that if you are involved in something and it causes dissension in your home, you have to let that go because God is more interested in your home being unified than any ministry opportunity you might have.
I learned that relationships are more important than any worship gig or ministry. I am thankful for God's reconciliation of the relationships I almost lost because of my pursuit of FAME. These are the people I do life with, I laugh with and I cry with. They are more important to me than everyone remembering my name.
I learned that I could write a blog, as it were. When I cleared out the mental space to sit with the Lord and let Him guide me instead of pursing FAME, I was directed to start writing stuff down. First, for myself, then for my family and friends and then for this blog. Who knew I could write something worth reading? Certainly not me, but I can say it is the most fun and creative part of my day right now. I had to take that leap of faith first, I had to trust Him. Do I struggle with the thought that "maybe I will become famous because of this blog!" No, of course not ever, that thought never enters my mind...and everyone laughed and laughed. Of course it does! I have to constantly fight against the lie that I have to be famous, and remind myself that I have one job and that is to make JESUS FAMOUS.
I learned that God is going to keep putting up in front of people and ask me to serve Him and not them. Meaning just stepping down from worship does not fix the sin nature inside of me. He keeps bringing me opportunities where baby Sarah could easily dust off her dress up clothes, make a stage and demand a captive audience. I still harbor plans to run off and try out for the VOICE. That need to be seen by people rears its ugly head, but each time I confess it, He reminds me that He sees me and that is what matters. He has a job for me to do, it is making HIM FAMOUS, not me.
These lessons seem so obvious when I write them down. Like, duh, of course you wanted to be famous and saw the worship team as your ticket to fame and stardom. When you are in it though, and when you are afraid to let go because you are scared of what is next, well, there is where you meet with Jesus. He says to your heart, "Let go, I am enough, I will get you through it." On this side of the sifting I am sad that it took me so long to trust Him, only because I am so free now. I spent so much time in bondage to fear. So fellow sojourner, whoever you are, read this and be convinced to take that leap of faith so that the fruit you produce is of the Spirit and brings you freedom!