by Sherilyn Chong
I was watching a video about a priest sharing how he got into learning an instrument. He was explaining that he was not a professional, but an amateur, which in French means, ‘one who loves’.
I first discovered my love for music at the age of six. Obviously, I didn’t know it was entirely a ‘gift’ from the Lord until I grew much older. I only just considered it a hobby. However, as I encountered the Lord in recent years, I realised that my ability to play instruments and sing was something that God had blessed me with. The main instrument that I play now is the guitar and I’m slowly learning to get back into playing the keyboard and cajon.
I am humbled to be able to pick up this ability to learn quickly because I have many other friends who find difficulty in learning an instrument. And as the priest shared about being an amateur, I am one who loves the sound of music and its gift in allowing me to learn music so freely.
Worship in Community
I’ve been part of the praise and worship ministry in my youth community for about three years now. The growth had never been easy, especially having to be confident in playing, singing and leading in front of crowds. However, I found that God had been challenging me during the times when I had to be the face of Christ in praise and worship.
During the first year, I felt no growth at all. It was a struggle and I kept questioning God whether I was worthy to be part of this ministry, whether my guitar skills were of any use. There was a time when I was playing during a worship session and I messed up big time. I assumed the other musicians to be upset at me for playing the wrong notes and strumming out of timing. I felt like a failure and I compared myself to the other musicians in the ministry. It was already terrifying being the only female guitarist, let alone this incident really shaken my confidence and I felt on the verge of giving up.
Again, I questioned God, “Am I really worthy to be in this ministry?” However, after talking to a friend, he reassured me that it takes many years for growth, even for him being in the ministry longer than I have. It’s always about practice and trusting that God will lead us when we are to play and worship. It’s really about this freedom to fully believe that He will make a way.
In a recent Sunday Gospel about the poor widow’s offering, she gave her everything – two small coins, whereas the rich put in a great deal. This is a reminder for me to trust in the Lord, that I give my everything to Him. “This poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.” She wasn’t affected by what she didn’t have, but what she did have. In the same way, I want to have this mentality like the poor widow, to lay it all down for the Lord, to give my ultimate trust to Him and to give my best in serving Him in this passion that I hold deeply.
In the next year, God really surprised me. I had the opportunity to serve in music in many retreats during the year and each encounter from God was different every time. I knew that my recent difficulty was having to play the instrument and sing. I always thought of myself as a great multitasker, but I was wrong. God challenged me this time to play the guitar and sing at the same time.
On a side note, I was extremely insecure about my singing voice, a part of me always held back because I felt it was a flaw of myself. There was one worship session when my fellow brothers and sisters encouraged me to sing louder despite having to be on guitar as well. I told the Lord, “I surrender this session to You, to not be afraid of my singing voice.” St Augustine said, “To sing is to pray twice.” I can only trust that the Holy Spirit will lead me during this time of worship, and it did.
I think that one of the greatest gifts from God is allowing ourselves to be moved by the Holy Spirit. Let the Spirit fill us and take control of our being and to fully utilise our gifts from God. Trusting in the Spirit had always been a challenge because I’m nervous whenever I am to stand in front and be the face of Christ. I always have to remind myself that this is not a performance, but a time to be present with the Lord and to pray, speak and sing to Him, to glorify and praise Him in all things.
All for His Glory
As a musician and bearing the gift of music, some might not take us seriously. We get judged based on our skills but not our hearts. In my experience, it’s okay to have shortcomings because that’s how we grow from here and we grow with the Lord. There is always time and space to improve as long as you know where your heart longs for – for God.
When I struggle with pride, I focus on the Crucifix. I would question how much pain Jesus had to go through to die for my sins. Why am I seeking for recognition when He’s the one carrying a huge cross in front of thousands of people? Service is always about helping others first. Being a humble servant means you set aside your pride and to focus on the reason why you decided to serve in the first place.
I get reminded of the story of King Saul and David. King Saul was so jealous of David’s victory over killing Goliath because people were praising David more than all of King Saul’s doing. King Saul went many ways to kill David, but God had anointed and protected him. David was a man of faith and his trust in God was so evident that even despite having to run away from King Saul, he still praised God with all his being and even converted others to join him in worshipping the Lord amongst the chaos. God wants us to be dependent on him, to rely on Him and not on our own strength. When we enjoy too much of wanting recognition and popularity, we mustn’t forget that we are first God’s servants. Saul’s jealousy of David blinded him greatly to what God had already granted him. We need to remember the mission that God has placed before us and in our hearts, but only through his direction can we live this life with meaning and to serve with purpose.
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” (St. Francis of Assisi)
The journey of discipleship is always a work in progress. Let us set aside having the desire for self-glorification, self-seeking and self-righteousness but more desire and love for God. Let us be convicted and bold in saying, “I’ve done the best that I can and it’s all for the glory of You. May my worth be based solely on Your constant love for me.”
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