As a lifelong performer, I can share a ton of stories about times when I stepped out to perform and things went very wrong. There was the time in high school where I was singing a solo on “Who Wrote the Book of Love” and forgot the lyrics (a very common issue for me.) I started trying to make them up and keep singing but if you know the song, you know that the lyrics rhyme. My lyrics most certainly did not rhyme or even make a lot of sense!
Then there is the time just a couple of months ago where I was singing with a quartet at church. At one point in the song, I was supposed to repeat the chorus and instead went right into the bridge. The accompaniment track we were using did not follow my lead and so the rest of the song was an attempt to get me and the other three guys in the same place at the same time. Not a good feeling.
Finally, just last week (I told you I had a lot of stories!) we were leading worship and things were going quite right. My bass wasn’t making any noise and the keys weren’t working either. We made it through – without the keys until the last song although my bass started working earlier in the set. But after each one of these examples, I remember being a little embarrassed and a lot frustrated.
This is not just something that worship leaders or singers have to deal with. Anyone who has ever taken a risk in serving Christ probably can tell a story where things didn’t go the way they were supposed to. Does this mean that we give up? Nope. Here’s the three things I try to do whenever things just don’t go right:
1. SHAKE IT OFF
Taylor Swift might be on to something here. When things don’t go right, the first thing we have to do is start to get over it. Yes, it might have been embarrassing and we feel frustrated or angry, but remember that we are always our own worst critics. Chances are the people who were watching us serve either had no idea things weren’t going right or thought it was no big deal while we thought the world was caving in around us. We do ourselves no good by reliving the embarrassing moments over and over. Forgive yourself (and anybody else you are blaming) – If we had to be perfect in order to serve, God would never use us in the first place.
2. LEARN FROM IT
Once you’ve settled down, figure out why things didn’t go the way you wanted. Should you have prepared more? (this is often the problem for me) Did things happen that were outside of your control and couldn’t be helped? Is there a better way to do what you are trying to accomplish? What can be improved for next time? If you continually face problems while you are trying to serve, eventually you need to determine if this is really where God is calling you to work. But don’t assume that just because you hit a little difficulty, you aren’t cut out for it. Here’s what coach Dean Smith said to do with a mistake: “recognize it; admit it; learn from it; and forget it.”
3. KNOW THAT GOD USES MISTAKES
As I mentioned before, if God could only use our service when it was perfect, he would skip using humans altogether. One of the amazing things about God is that he even uses our mistakes for good. Sometimes He even uses those mistakes to bring about a result greater than what would have happened if everything went right! One example of this is that people will see you persevere through problems and draw inspiration from that. Remember that how you respond when things go poorly can bring glory to God just as much if not more than a perfect performance.
So don’t let the fear of making a mistake keep you on the sidelines. In a song I recently recorded for my newest album (hopefully out in a few months!) I have a verse that speaks about this situation. Here are the lyrics:
“Father, as I seek to use the gifts You’ve given me, things won’t always turn out perfectly. As long as You are glorified, I will become undignified. Your name be made great; I’ll be a fool for Your sake. All for Your glory.”
May God use your mistakes in a mighty way!