I sing. And I have stage fright something terrible. It seems to have gotten worse with age. I’ve actually sung solos in a few weddings, including my own 23 years ago. And each time I”ve sung in front of an audience, it has always been a pale shadow of how I can really sing–in the shower, in the car, and even in the wonderfully-reverberating bathroom at church.
I’m the one who sings with boldness while standing as a part of the congregation, and people consistently tell me I have a beautiful voice. And I sing beautifully as part of the choir. But when it’s my turn to do a solo, I freak. I panic. But WHY? What makes me so afraid to sing as God has enabled me? I don’t know.
I’m doing my first solo in many years in a little over a week in a large Christmas production at our church, replete with orchestra. And I’m afraid I’m going to let everyone down with a voice that squeaks out of a throat constricted in fear. Envisioning the audience naked does not help, even though everyone tells me so. Envisioning them thinking I’m the best singer in the world doesn’t help, either. (Nobody told me that, I just tried it.) Envisioning myself singing to Jesus doesn’t help much, either. (Sorry, Lord, but I’ve got this stage fright thing BAD.)
What keeps us from being everything God has called us to be? Fear of failure, embarrassment, or letting others down. Have we ever wondered what we could have been if we had had no fear of failure? How much of our destiny have we passed by because we didn’t trust God enough to give us what we needed in the moment that we needed it? I’ve been asking Him to give me the boldness to sing, but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe because I haven’t needed it yet. It isn’t yet showtime.
But will He come through at that precise moment? Will I suddenly feel relaxed, and will my voice suddenly trill beautifully out of my throat?
After Moses died and the mantle passed from him to Joshua, I wonder if Joshua had stage fright. Not only was he going to have to fill some very big shoes, he was also going to have to go against some very big and scary men in the promised land: bigger, stronger and more numerous. And there was a potential for failure, embarrassment, and disappointing his fellow Israelites. What does it feel like to stand in front of more than a million Israelites and tell them that the land of Canaan wasn’t free for the taking; they had to go against the ugliest of the ugly, and the meanest of the mean?
Joshua must have had stage fright, because God addressed it very specifically. And interestingly, He didn’t say, “It’s OK, Joshua, this will be a piece of cake. At just the right time, I’ll give you a shot of valium, and you’ll be relaxed and confident, and all you’ll have to do is hold your sword out, and I’ll make all your enemies fall upon it. That’s all there is to it.” No, actually what God said was, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.”
Joshua’s knees must have begun to shake, because God took one look at him and reiterated His previous statement: “Only be strong and very courageous…” Only?, Joshua must have thought. And what was that “very” word you slipped in there? Exactly how courageous is “very courageous?”
God required Joshua to stand up, square his shoulders, and be what He had made him to be. This was his destiny, the shoes Joshua was designed to fill, but He wasn’t going to make it easy on him. But He did give him the secret for success: “…be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it, for then [then!] you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:7-8)
Joshua had his marching orders: be strong, be courageous, and keep My word in your mouth and in your heart and do not depart from it. Not easy, not at all, but certainly do-able with God’s help. Can you hear the sudden question in Joshua’s heart? God, will you be going with me? I can’t do it without you. Honest, I can’t. Moses had said similar words many years before when God threatened to remove His presence. “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.”
God must have smiled at Joshua and said, “Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Whew, OK. Excellent. I can do this. I think…
When God calls us to big things, He calls us to be big. Like when you face a bear. You’re supposed to make yourself look big.
So stand up. Square your shoulders. Puff out your chest if you need to. Keep His word in your mouth and in your heart. And know that He’s got your back. Then go forth and conquer.