My Weapon is a Melody
I was 12 years old in a children’s church musical, singing my little heart out in a Saturday rehearsal before the big event, when a boy I thought was cute rolled his eyes at his friend next to him, and said, “Jeez, she sings so loud!”
That was the first time I ever heard someone comment on the volume of my singing. And his eyeroll made it clear that “loud” clearly meant something inappropriate or unwelcome. I’d never had anyone criticize me for singing loudly before; after all, our school music teachers and choir directors were always fussing at us to open our mouths wider and SING. And for all the times little old ladies had told me in church that I had a good voice, no one had ever told me it was….bad…to sing the way I did.
I kept on singing, sometimes because I liked it, and sometimes because my parents forced me. Solos at church, mass choirs, ensembles, school fine arts competitions—I sang because everyone said God had blessed me with a good voice, so I should “develop it” and learn to sing better. I sang because I was supposed to, but deep inside me were seeds of insecurity and doubt, and a memory of harsh words and scorn.
In college one day, one of my best friends joked with our lunch table, “Don’t ever sit next to Ariel in chapel. She only has one volume - LOUD.” And even though I laughed with everyone else at the table, I picked up on the subliminal message once again: that “make a joyful noise” didn’t apply to ME, because I apparently took it too literally. I thought I was singing with joy in the Chapel worship, but based on the group laughter, I was actually annoying everyone else.
Years went by that I sang, but I didn’t sing my heart out anymore. I worshipped, but I was always holding back and always, always insecure. I didn’t enjoy singing in public that much anymore because it carried a weight of “performance” that I felt like I couldn’t meet.
When I came to Spain, immediately after I joined my church of about 60 people, everyone started asking why I didn’t sing with the worship team (lead by two teenagers at the time.) I was trying to study Spanish and was pretty much at my limit of energy, so I promised to wait until I finished my Spanish classes before I joined any group at the church. And after that year, I went to the music director and asked to audition.
Honestly, it was the best thing I’ve ever done. The worship team of IC:Madrid has been a healing place for me. The leader has consistently worked with me on every insecurity and pushed me further musically than I ever thought I could go. He encourages me to play with the dynamics: to sing as softly as I can on one song, and then completely let it go on another. Sometimes my job is to bring the power. Sometimes it’s to hit that high note, but it’s ALWAYS to communicate with others how much Jesus means to me. And my voice can do that. That’s what our entire team does! Most of them are half my age, but they are the best worshippers of Jesus that I know. They LOVE music, and they LOVE Jesus. So they offer their talent to the Lord with total freedom. They still sometimes remind me that “my voice eats all the others” (it makes more sense in Spanish) but they adjust the mics, and I work on controlling that projection, until the moment when Isra gives me the look to “let ‘er rip.”
Easter is my favorite day to sing at IC:Madrid. Partly it’s because we do a longer and more showy music set that day, so the music part is awesome. We rent a theater, and people come all excited, so the energy builds us into a greater musical experience, too. Partly it’s because I know that so many people in that place don’t know Jesus at all, and once again I have the chance to use my voice and all my expression to make Him known, as loud and as beautifully as I can. And I do. Every year, I leave it all on the stage, even if I can barely talk afterward; I sing my heart out to make Jesus known.
I’m done with being insecure about my voice. It’s what God gave me so I could serve Him better. He didn’t just call me to make Him known. He *created* me to make Him known. And He gave me this huge voice that carries further than I even realize most of the time. But when I get up on a red box in Sol, I know everyone can hear me preach, because God gave me this voice to make Him known. When I sing in that theater on Sunday, I’m gonna sing with everything I’ve got to make Him known, to bring people into His presence, to communicate His complete power over sin and death. And over insecurity, too!