When I was in ninth grade, I made one of my rare New Year’s Resolutions and decided I wanted to learn to play guitar. Seven years later, I’m really not very good at it. I mean, not as good as I should be.
Reasons why (aka my excuses)
• I can’t figure out what strum pattern to use for a song. Once someone else has started, I can usually keep up and do just fine. But I tend to use one of the same two or three for every song, which obviously doesn’t work.
• I can’t strum and sing at the same time. Well, I can for like three songs. But only because I’ve practiced enough. The rest of the time I either screw up the guitar part (usually that one) or sometimes mess up the pitch/pace/words of the song.
• My fingers have trouble reaching anything beyond two frets away. That is a big problem for stuff like F#m, which is in some songs I really love and want to play.
• I’m not a good singer. Ok, this might seem kind of irrelevant to how I am able to play guitar, but when I can’t so one part, I kind of lose confidence, which brings me to the next point…
• I have no confidence on the guitar. When I am up in front of people playing my guitar I usually want to cry or crawl in a hole or occasionally just let every laugh at how much I suck.
This summer, with YouthWorks, I told the guy who interviewed me that I had a little bit of guitar experience, but that I never really play in front of people. I explained to him—as I’ve explained to others before and others since—that I use guitar as a way of communing with God, of putting myself in His presence. I prefer playing in my room with the door closed when as few people are home as possible. I enjoy begin able to just sit before Him and to allow the words to flow through me and impact me. I can’t do that very well in front of people. It’s just not my thing.
Well, in the way that only God can work, I ended up being hired as the lead guitar player for the YouthWorks site in Logan, WV. Sweet. I spent the next few weeks wanting to practice and get better, but not really having the time.
Reasons I didn’t have time (more excuses)
• I play ultimate Frisbee for Saint Louis University (SLU) and we were hoping to qualify for Nationals. Then we did qualify for Nationals. So we were working extra hard to do well there (13th in the nation, not too shabby for a school our size)
• I was taking 18 credit hours and things got hectic there for a while. Projects, papers, and the like.
• I led a spring break mission trip, which meant meetings and prep beforehand and then no actual spring break. It was an awesome experience, but it definitely took up a lot of time.
• I also had to write five talks in preparation for the summer, when I would be giving one a night throughout the week.
• I was involved in Monday night Prayer and Praise, a Women’s Bible study, a small group at church, and intramural sports.
Long story short: I didn’t really practice all that often. I got to training in Philadelphia directly off a plane from Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. The first time all the future worship leaders sat down to play, I became extremely overwhelmed. “These people are all better than me. I’m screwed.” My thought process continued like this throughout that half hour or so. I left the jam session and immediately went into the bathroom to cry it out. Crap.
During prep week in Logan, before the youth arrived, I labored to figure out songs I could handle that were relevant to my talks that the youth would know or at least could follow. I kind of failed. A couple of our adult leader evaluations after the first week of programming talked about how we needed a stronger singer/guitar player to lead worship. Crap again.
Well, things changed drastically when there was an abrupt staff change. Within 24 hours, two out of the four staff left and two new individuals joined us as we began our second week on our own. As always, God knows what He is doing. He sent us Krista, who played guitar.
I was overjoyed. That first week had really broken my spirit in terms of worship. I felt like I had let everyone down, especially the youth, which is the LAST thing I would every want to do. I thought that I was getting in the way of them praising Him instead of opening the door to a stronger connection with Him. Which is what I told my boss’s boss when she informed me that I would still be lead guitar even with Krista there. Well, I kind of told her that between tears of fear, frustration, and uncertainty (here we go again with me crying about guitar).
Eventually, when I professed my undying love for not playing guitar in front of people, it was decided that Krista would take over guitar for at least that week, and then we would go from there.
I spent the week getting over my stupid fear and realizing that I had to just swallow my pride (a theme of the summer and now my life, by the way). By week 4 I was generally back on my feet and started playing backup guitar. And no, that doesn’t mean it was too much easier. It was definitely great to have Krista taking the lead, but the one time she looked at me and said “You lead this one, please” before a song I had never played before, my heart essentially stopped and I couldn’t even remember what a G chord looked like.
All this goes to say: I have no confidence playing guitar in front of people. But a LOT of churches want the youth minister to do some sort of worship for the youth. I’m not ready for that. I might never be.
Sure, I might be able to find a youth to lead worship. That can be really empowering for them. Unless, of course, they’re anything like me. I can’t really count on having an awesome guitar-playing, confident high school student with a decent voice in my youth group.
At this point I’m still playing guitar, though it took me a solid month or more to pick it back up after the summer, that’s how broken I felt. I’m moving forward (I even got roped into playing backup for a retreat commissioning ceremony and I only kind of screwed up), but I’m not ready to sit in an interview and tell them that I play guitar. If this means I don’t get hired, it will be difficult and it will suck. But I’m not ready. And for now, I am working with that and through that because I believe God will lead me to where I need to be.
Today I turn around
Stop running away from Him.
Today I listen
And run toward.