Some time ago at church, I was asked to join the worship team so that the Worship Leader wouldn’t be so lonely. On my first week, the Sound Technician (my son) and his Assistant (my husband) decided that I needed managing so they offered me their free, unsolicited advice. On the way home, they told me that I looked depressed. “You need to smile when you are up there.” Well, smiling is a real challenge for someone who survived her childhood by repressing all emotion. It seems so risky. Besides, I wasn’t sure how to smile while I sang. I felt like one of those dogs on the commercials who show their pearly whites so we see how clean their teeth are.
After I heard the Manager’s advice, I wanted to resign. Unfortunately, by the next week I forgot my discomfort and automatically slid into my chair along side the Worship Leader. However, I did remember to smile broadly at the Managers while I sang and made sure I showed my teeth.
In the past, when the Worship Leader had a real singer co-lead with him, his habit was to turn to her and say, “Would you pray, please?” When I realized that this prayer job now fell to me, I nearly resigned...again. I had a flashback of being called out by the Prayer Lady to come join a prayer circle. I wanted to strangle her and bolt from the building. So when the Worship Leader turned to me and asked me to pray, I did what any sensible woman would do when caught in front of a large group of people: I crucified my fleshly nature that wanted to throttle him and prayed sweetly from my spirit.
As I have admitted elsewhere, I am horrible at prayer. I would like to blame this on an enzyme deficiency but no one would believe me. In reality, it turns out that when one lives in chronic stress, adrenaline shunts the blood supply to the muscles, eyes and parts unmentionable and away from the vocabulary area of the brain, creating a physiologic state of speechlessness. I’m not sure what the Worship Leader, who is also a physician, thinks about my explanation but at least I feel better, knowing that science can explain my inability to articulate words while praying in public.
The next week after Bible study, the Managers offered more unsolicited pearls of wisdom. They told me that I needed to project when I prayed. “They can hardly hear you,” they alleged. I took the spiritual high road and said I was praying to God, who didn’t have a hearing problem. The Managers stubbornly resisted my theological argument, insisting that the people in the room wanted to hear my words. I decided that the next time I would invite everyone to join me in silent prayer.
In addition, the Sound Technician (my son) told me that he was going to add a microphone to “pick up more ambient sound.” I think that was his way of saying that people would now be able to hear me sing, which was not part the agreement. I only agreed to do this gig so that the Worship Leader, who is also the Bible teacher, wouldn’t look so forlorn. Once the new microphone was in place, I tried to ignore it, but later the managers noted my deficiency in projection again. The Assistant (my husband) said, “Well, you could just pick up that mic and use it when you pray.” I think I will fire the Managers.
Unsure of what gem the Managers might have for me the following week, I arrived at Bible study with my own plan. I approached the Worship Leader and suggested that he ask the Assistant to pray. He agreed without even questioning my motives, which comes from years of living with the Prayer Lady. When the prayer time came, and the Assistant was called on, he moved from his safe techie zone to a more central spot, probably so he could be heard easily. At the same time, I left my chair, walked by him with a big smile, teeth and all, and whispered, “Make sure you project!”
Several days later, I attended a conference where one of the speakers repeatedly tucked her hair behind her ears. Over dinner, I shared my observations with the Managers. “I’m just getting ready for my own presentation,” I reflected. The Sound Technician responded, “Well, you need to open your mouth to the width of two fingers and smile.” Then he demonstrated this technique by putting two fingers between his teeth and continued: “That’s how you project. You are doing much better than your first week.”
Thank goodness for the Managers.
GENEVA CHINNOCK is a writer and author of Becoming His Beloved: Journey into the Father’s Affection. Geneva has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master in Business Administration. In her spare time, Geneva loves reading, eating bacon and attending live theater. She lives in Southern California with her husband and blogs about matters of faith at TreasuredbyGod.com.