You Will Not Die


Have you ever heard someone say, “I could have died from embarrassment!”

One weekend in the not so distant past, I was leading worship for the services at the Urbana campus. After church on Sunday, I went home to rest a little and change my clothes (I had been wearing the same outfit all weekend, cuz choosing something to wear on stage is the bane of my existence and I generally find myself just shy of cool and on the wrong side of frumpy, but I digress) … Anywho, I changed my outfit and went back to church to help lead worship for a Holy Spirit night.  Upon arrival, one of my band mates remarked that I had changed my shirt. I was amazed that they noticed since this person was of the male persuasion, and they’re generally not too observant of such things (sorry dudes). Another male band member also remarked that I had changed my shirt. This was puzzling. And then they explained. You see, I had been wearing a pale pink shirt under a very scooped neck grey sweater, and both of these gentlemen over the course of the weekend had done double takes from afar as it looked like that pale pink shirt was actually a continuation of my pale pink skin. I then imagined the hundreds of people who had seen me that weekend…thinking that they were seeing a lot more of me than I intended. I flushed with belated embarrassment and then laughed…and I did not die.

I remember one of the first times I was leading a song from the main stage.  The song was Healer and the key was…I honestly don’t know. It didn’t really matter because the key I started singing in was completely different from what the band was playing. I sang a few lines, heard the dissonance, knew that something was very wrong, and abruptly stopped singing. Now I could have coolly let the band play the intro and then just started again, you know, subtle and smooth… but instead I announced loudly into the mic, “I’m sorry…I need to start again.” Just in case anybody missed it. And we did restart, and it was fine…and I did not die.

I was helping lead a Worship Lab for the School of Kingdom Ministry with Daniel Goulet one evening.  We were doing an activation where we ask the students to try to push themselves to do something physical in worship that they haven’t done before (dance, run, jump, lift hands). I wanted to lead by example so I exuberantly danced and ran around the room and jumped and joined hands with people; imagine a human stirring spoon and that was me. As the song ended, I made my way back on stage since I was going to speak and transition us on to the next portion of teaching.  What happened instead was me standing in front of the mic, wheezing so hard, gripping my sides, unable to speak, and generally looking like I was having a heart attack. Again, did I gracefully exit off stage to collect myself? No! I gasped into the mic “I can’t breathe! Ahhhh!” Praise God for Daniel Goulet who then led us in a beautiful time of intimate worship as I literally fell on the ground and learned to breathe again. To the untrained eye, I appeared to be in deep worship. I eventually was able to stand again and we moved on…and I did not die.

Let me get a little serious for a moment. There was a special event at church one night, dedicated to lifting our country in prayer over the issue of racism. I was helping lead worship. We’d done a few songs and were in an instrumental transition. I remember suddenly getting this feeling like I was supposed to share something very personal with the church. It had nothing to do with the purpose of the evening, but I went for it. I spoke and declared some things and then we continued on with worship. The evening turned into a powerful time of confession, repentance, and prayer for our church…and I felt ashamed. This was a night dedicated to a purpose and I took the spotlight onto myself during worship. I was so torn. I thought I was supposed to share, but what if I was wrong? What if that wasn’t God? What if that was just my personal catharsis?  To this day, I still feel shame whenever I think of that night…but…I did not die.

I have forgotten all the lyrics to songs, sung the wrong lyrics, had black eye makeup running down my face, my zipper has been down, I’ve fallen on my butt on stage, I’ve “danced” terribly, had my in-ears pack go flying across the stage because I was too exuberant, walked off stage to get batteries, gotten on stage late, attempted spontaneous song that turned out to be spontaneous mad-libs, hit some horrible notes, had huge pit stains, and have crash landed so many songs…and I did not die.

When you choose to step into a spotlight, to speak/sing/play, you are choosing to do the thing that most humans fear more than death. Armpits weep and stomachs rumble at the thought of public speaking/singing/playing. And sometimes things go wrong and maybe something embarrassing happens. But let me tell you this; you will not die. Every worship leader has an off-day or an off-set or an off-song. We’ve all taken risks that haven’t quite worked out. There will be circumstances beyond your control. What matters is how we respond to these moments. I know I’ve had worship leading experiences that made me question whether I am even called to lead at all. I’ve condemned and berated myself for mistakes and said inwardly, “I should just quit.” But Jesus keeps reminding me that the “gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29). He will never change His mind about me, even when I mess up. I am no longer under the law of perfection, or as Paul puts it in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” We bring Him a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15), and lay down our fear of man, our need to look good, our perfection, and our pride.  He is so worthy of this sacrifice.

You won’t die from embarrassment or mistakes, so don’t let these things kill what God has called to life either. Choose to get back up and be who God has called you to be.

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Barbara Chambers says:

    You have humbled yourself and God gives grace to the humble! Love you, Joanna!

  2. rue202 says:

    We are only human. We will make mistakes. That thing you felt to share – don’t be ashamed. Yah/God probably wanted you to share it for someone else.

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