Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Singing Lessons

(This is a journal entry I wrote while reading Do Hard Things. It is a response to the question "Is there something that seemed beyond you at the time that you did and now it's no big deal?")

My sophomore year of college, I took Beginning Guitar, and as a final, we each had to play a song and sing along with it. I got someone else in the class to accompany me, because I cannot sing. It went fine, and afterward, my professor asked to speak to me. He said he'd be happy to give me a few singing lessons privately. I declined and he persisted that even if I couldn't perform, I would at least be comfortable and able to sing on key in my range (which is just about level with Tom Waits). I declined again, thanked him and left.

As I walked back to the dorms across the library lawn with lamplight making pools of yellow in the dark cool green, I cried. I felt so sad, like a heavy lump of raw regret lay undigested in my stomach, and I knew it would feel worse as it digested.

What was the worst that could have happened? I could suck. Ok. And one person would have witnessed it. It was pride, really, at the root of it. I desperately wanted to be able to sing, and I knew I would never be a really beautiful singer. Sure, he could help me with pitch and breathing, but he couldn't add what God hadn't given me: talent. The voice I hear in Spencer, a sound so achingly beautiful it's hard not to cry, and impossible not to be moved. I knew I'd never sound like that, so why bother?

Here's what I really missed, though: aside from humility, I missed out on the chance to grow as a person. Who knows what would have been different had I stayed? Might I have left half an hour later and crossed paths with someone new, stopped to talk, and become friends? Could I have overcome my fear and pride enough to lead worship for a small Bible study? Maybe I would have loved that breakthrough so much that I would have stuck with playing guitar- really dedicating myself to it- as opposed to playing occasionally and improving at a snail's pace, which is where I am today. 

I think that choice about the singing stings so acutely because it stands out. I have to say that in my life as a whole, I have done many "hard things." As a child, my parents moved us every year or so until I was eight, so I had a lot of experience makings friends out of strangers- a skill that is still going strong today. I have dozens of really good friends, the kind that really understand me as a person and who go to great lengths to maintain our friendship across the years and over many miles. 

I studied abroad in Prague, which is hands down the best decision I have ever made, and gave me so many amazing memories and two of my closest friends. Not to mention, the myriad ways I grew as a person. There is a love for the quiet streets of Mala Strana that haunts me. That is where I grew up, so to speak, and where I learned the real meaning of 1 Peter 2:11. There is not one place on this earth which holds everyone I love; there never will be. But that ache is a blessing, it makes me look ahead- eons ahead.

I left my heart open to the possibility of love- cliche as that sounds- after years of apathy, disappointment, and heartache. And confusion- man, did I think God was leading some places He wasn't. I thought the confusion would never end. I thought the longing would never end. And you know what? It hasn't. Only now, it's fulfilled. Because what I could see so vividly for so long is now reality- changed only by Time (and wedding vows). I wake up every day next to the person I most admire in the world. Sometimes I just stare at Spencer while he sleeps. Creepy, I know, but Life goes by so quickly, and I know mine is a miracle.

The question becomes now, "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" That quote is often used at commencement ceremonies, and as corny as it sounds, I think it begs to be answered.

I would keep trying to find what it is I'm made for. This opinion may change in the future- and I know I always need to serve where I am, but part of me is so stupidly stubborn that it won't give up on the idea that a future me is busily working at something she loves. Maybe she is growing vegetables in her backyard while she home schools her five children (Spencer hopes it's not this one). Maybe she's teaching culinary classes. Maybe she's writing children's books and being an advocate for literacy. Maybe she is getting fifteen year olds to love Upton Sinclair and Shakespeare.

I can see all of these. Maybe that's my problem. Maybe they will all be me, at different times. Who knows? He does. And though I'm frustrated and feeling despair at my continual search for a purpose, even whether the idea is legit or not, I press on. I have to know this better. I want to know Him better. I want to see Direction and choices overlap and start to flow together.

I am terrible at waiting and being still. But I have prayed more in the last six months than ever in my life. And I have served more and chosen to stay in situations I could have gotten out of, because I want to see God work. I want to wrestle like Jacob and walk away with my hip out of place more than I want to be as I was and unchanged.


  1. Tara, I love this post. I feel like printing it out and putting it on my fridge. You have always been someone that I look up to (even if it is hearing about your life second hand through your sister or Molly, and even if I am several states away), and it is encouraging to see that you are seeking God for one of the exact same things that I have been lately. It's always encouraging to see that I'm not the only one seeking wisdom and direction!

  2. Awwwwwww, thank you!

    I feel the same way about emily lewis as you do me- it's funny now because I talk to her more often than molly, only because she is so insanely busy.

    I am glad that you are encouraged. I hesitated about posting this, whether or not it was just me journaling, or really helpful, but already 3 people have told me they liked it- the most (and fastest) response for any post of mine. I have been 'wrestling' with God about direction for all of my adult life-and He has shown me many amazing things about Himself. It is hard, I ain't gonna lie- but so good. Hang in there!

  3. Love. So great and so encouraging.