I got to sing right on that corner. Amazing acoustics!
Last night my dad asked me if I would be willing to sing Jonah’s Whale as part of his sermon about “Service”. Thanks to some flexible friends I was able to delay the conference call I had with them today by an hour so I could go to the morning mass at St. Gabriel’s.
During the sermon, my dad talked about the paradox of providing selfless service along with taking care of yourself first. About not waiting or trying to be perfect, but just going out and serving anyway. About learning by doing. All the exact sorts of things I learned during my year in Austin! Before I sang I joked a little - why had I gone to Austin for a year when my dad had just summed up all my lessons in five minutes? He had also given that answer - I had to learn by doing it, so that I’d know it not just in my head but in my whole body and soul.
Though I’d of course sung many, many times in church growing up (I pretty much still remembered the melodies of the whole service, that was a good way to warm up!) I’d never sung solo or with my guitar before, in front of the congregation. Even though I actually wrote Jonah’s Whale before going to Austin, I certainly wouldn’t have been ready to sing it for them until now. I’m quite sure this audience got whole other layers of meaning to the song that the folks in the bars don’t even think about, and it’s a bit of a marvel to me the layers *I* still uncover in what seemed such a simple little song when I first wrote it.
Once again, I am being shown to trust the song. When I write, either the critical voices come out and choke off the creative flow at the start, or I just innocently follow the inspiration. Then when I do complete the song, the critical voices often pounce on it and tear it apart, or dismiss it as too boring or too simple. Or I tell myself there aren’t enough chords or fingerpicking. But when I trust the song and perform it to the best of my abilities, there is always at least a person or two who really responds, and more often than not, it’s more than just a couple people!
That brings me back to the theme of service. When I stop making the performance about me, and focus on serving the songs, that is when the songs can best serve others. That’s what the recording process for my EP seemed to be about - “How can we best serve these songs today?” As each song naturally and organically filled out sonically, for the first time I was able to hear them in a way that made me realize that perhaps these songs could actually be gifts for other people. I always knew that was possible with music in general, as I have received that gift again and again. But to finally feel that my little creations are worthy of giving, was a true blessing of self-acceptance.
Knowing what the songs are capable of when they are all dressed up gives me more confidence when delivering them unadorned. It doesn’t let me off the hook in terms of moving forward and improving, but removes those self-imposed mental roadblocks to taking action. And taking action is where the improvement happens. Just keep swimming!