I am truly sorry for the mental picture I’ve given you. I’m betting that as you’re deciding whether or not to read the rest of this article, you are doing so with a mixture of intrigue, anxiety, and a desperate hope that there are no pictures! Before you get too nervous about the subject matter, let me assure you that I don’t walk around singing in the nude…very often.
To better explain my subject matter, I need to tell you a story from when I was in college. (Now you’re really getting worried, right?) During the early 2000’s, I attended Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls where I earned a Bachelor of Music, focusing on vocal performance. During those years, I had voice lessons twice a week with my professor, vocal coach, and dear friend, Dr. Don Maxwell. Somewhere during my first couple of lessons, I heard Dr. Maxwell say something which I would hear him repeat many times over the years. It was such a odd statement that it stuck with me. He said, “To become a great singer you need to learn the joy of singing naked.”
At first, I was a tad bit scared I was being taught by some weird exhibitionist! (Dr. Maxwell, if you ever read this, please forgive me.) However, as time went by the meaning behind the message slowly sunk in: You’ll never achieve greatness if you hold anything back. He was trying to tell me that if I wanted to know just how good of a singer I could be I would have to give my best, my all. I had to be willing to risk failure, criticism, and even rejection. To give my best and fullest effort would make me feel “naked and exposed” but only by putting it all on the line would I ever experience the joy of success.
This lesson has stuck with me long after I finished college and moved on to other pursuits. I’ve come to understand this advice in a deeper and broader way. Before I explain further, let’s take a moment to look at God’s Word.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18–20, ESV)
There’s a lot that can be learned from this Bible passage, but let me draw your attention to one of the most important details. When called by Jesus, Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. Jesus was giving them the opportunity (He was not forcing them) to make a radical change of direction in their lives, and these brothers responded with a full commitment. They didn’t take their fishing gear along saying, “Jesus, we really don’t know much about this ‘fishing for men’ stuff and we’re willing to give it a try but if it doesn’t work out we need a fall back plan.” They literally got rid of their safety nets!
Over the years, it has begun to dawn on me how much easier life appears to be when you give less than your best and make half-hearted commitments. I say this because when we try something and give less than a 100%, or worse yet not even try at all, we can fall back on the excuses of “I could have if I had really tried” or, “I would have if I had really wanted to.” The problem lies in that living in the “could have’s” and “would have’s” will ultimately result in a regret-filled pile of “should have’s.”
The truth is that we are all afraid of what might happen if we truly give something our best effort. We fret over, “What if I fail?” and “What if people don’t like what I have to offer?” Those thoughts used to run through my head when I stood on stage before an auditorium full of people. And when those thoughts got the best of me, I would end up giving less than I should have.
Today, as you strive to give your all to God, let me challenge you to do something crazy – take a risk. Consider what thing God has called you to do, and then go after it with abandon. There is nothing sadder than the person who never tried, never took the risk, never found out what lay over that distant horizon. Yes, you might fail, but so what? Failing is just part of learning what not to do next time. Peter and Andrew took a risk, left their old life behind, and followed Jesus, but they certainly weren’t failure free. In fact, Jesus would use their later failures to teach some of His greatest lessons.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will ever be able to please everyone with what you do. God’s call on your life has nothing to do with the approval of others. Being fully committed to something does make you feel rather exposed and vulnerable because others will be seeing the real you and the best you have to offer. However, it won’t matter if you don’t measure up to someone else’s standards because God will always be greatly pleased when you give your best.
Take a lesson from my old vocal coach and start to learn the “joy of singing naked.” It comes when you are willing to stand up and shout for everyone to hear, “This is who I am and this is what God has called me to do!”