I want to share an unexpected, profound experience that I had today . . . while leading the music in Church.
I didn’t think much about it when I received the text request to stand in for a neighbor who would be gone.
My kids’ responses gave me great confidence– “Why did they ask you?” and “Do you know how to lead music? There’s instructions in the back of the hymnal.”
To this great confidence booster I replied that yes, I knew there were instructions, had taught them a few times to different groups, and that I thought I could likely manage standing and moving my arms in some semblance of rhythm.
But then the Church meeting began. And my heart LITERALLY BEGAN BEATING FAST. I’m not joking. And then they gave the typical announcement that “music direction will be by” but then they said my full name. And suddenly it felt like an official THING.
I started to feel that sort of shaky way that’s on the inside, when you haven’t eaten in awhile (okay, three hours). And I’m thinking, Why am I responding so RIDICULOUSLY to this? I’m literally more nervous to lead the music than I am before speaking at a conference.
And then it hits me–a bunch of questions that I likely should have asked BEFORE the meeting started.
Like, where EXACTLY do I stand? (Right in front of the music stand, OR on the slightly raised platform right behind it?)
I look at the organist. He’s getting ready to play.
Do I stand BEFORE he starts to play the introduction, or after? (Or both?)
Do I give the downbeat or just follow him? (What’s a downbeat?)
Do I look mostly at the hymnal or mostly at the congregation? (Please no)
How many verses? (Just 2 of the openings apparently…)
It’s just leading the music, right? But I scramble to think back to previous weeks–nay years–of watching a weekly chorister and asking myself, How DOES Sister W. do this?
Suddenly, I have newfound respect for Sister W.
And a wish that I had thought more than, She is such a great lady and rocks that hair color.
So I say a prayer–yes, seriously–and stand and start leading “High on a Mountain Top.”
And I love it. It stirs me. It’s the kind of hymn that you can’t just give the obligatory to. It’s a let’s-shout-it-from-the-peaks kind of joyful news. And suddenly I find myself feeling these thoughts of, “I love these people. I love this gospel. I love that we get to be here.”
A joyful love bubbled up inside me–so surprising–and thoroughly overflowing. From leading a hymn. (Actually, I think it’s being in that general vicinity of the pulpit because similar overflowing feelings happen when I want to bear my testimony but suddenly can’t squeak two words out).
So I thought, What a sweet, tender mercy.
But there was more.
Later, I stood to lead the sacrament hymn. Feeling more confident, I focused on the love. And on the right downbeat. And on looking at the congregation occasionally without my lips showing that bit of nervous tremble.
But a different feeling came. Like a washover of something warm and filling, that spread through my soul. Just this overwhelming love and reverence for the Savior. And then I couldn’t stop crying. And I couldn’t really look at the congregation, and was just trying to blink to see the next verse to mouth it.
In that one long sustained moment that unfolded through the verses, I just felt this sacredness. Like I got it. In a tiny glimpse of a way, I FELT what we were really doing there. And looking out at the congregation and really seeing them, their eyes, their beings. Rather than intimidating, it became this sacred vantage point and sweet connection.
And that I got to be a part of it.
I felt this deep gratitude for the gift of being able to lead the music. To get this view from behind the pulpit. To be filled with this kind of feeling.
It may sound a bit overdone, and I wish I could explain it better. But it was something so very, very simple–leading the music. But it turned out to be an incredibly personal and profound moment.
I don’t think I will look at that calling–or the myriad seemingly routine callings–the same way again.
And a sincere thank you, Sister W.