Humor me for a moment. Think about a baby chick. God designed it so that, within the confines of a shell, a tiny little speck grows miraculously into a baby chick. It’s protected from harm’s way. For roughly 21 days it’s kept safe and warm allowing it the space to grow into a tiny version of what it will someday be – a clucking chicken.
But the baby chick needs to break out of its shell at a certain point. It needs to stretch its muscles, tap its beak, and stomp its feet until the walls begin to crack and tear open. All of this tapping and stomping and stretching is necessary in preparing it to be strong enough to survive in the real world.
If it’s helped too much, certain parts of the chick are not developed enough and it may not survive. The fight to break free is a vital part of their growth.
Shells are safe and keep us insulated. They are perceived walls of protection. But at a certain point they are no longer helpful and, instead, hold us back from necessary growth.
For a great many of us, we like to stay within our shells. For me, my shell is made up of a number of messages I tell myself in order to protect my heart. The walls of my shell are lined with messages like…
- “Don’t disagree in this production meeting. It might harm your job stability.”
- “Don’t introduce that new song. It’s too different for the congregation.”
- “Just sing the songs as you lead worship. No one wants to hear what you have to say.”
You get the point. This shell is created by messages born of fear – fear of rejection, of being exposed, of not measuring up, and of not pleasing the crowd.
As an introverted artist, I tend to be quick to listen and slow to speak. This means it takes even more energy and risk to speak up or try something new. I have to choose to break out of my shell. Each day requires work to push through my own walls and bring my true self to meetings and services.
This requires a hefty amount of vulnerability and risk of being hurt. But can I tell you something? It is so worth it. The past few years I have journeyed toward breaking out of my shell. I speak up in meetings and counter the popular agreement if I feel strongly about it. And it’s scary, but so satisfying. I’m heard and it’s confirmation that my voice matters.
The Real You
I love the author Parker Palmer. In his book “Let Your Life Speak”, he shares the following:
“The people who plant the seeds of movements make a critical decision: they decide to live ‘divided no more.’ They decide no longer to act on the outside in a way that contradicts some truth about themselves that they hold deeply on the inside.”
Palmer calls this the “Rosa Parks decision”, because her action is a perfect example of an undivided life. When asked why, on December 1, 1955, she chose not to move to the back of the bus and instead sat in the front, her response was: “I sat down because I was tired.” Palmer says,
“…she did not mean that her feet were tired. She meant that her soul was tired, her heart was tired, her whole being was tired of playing by racist rules, of denying her soul’s claim to selfhood.” (Let Your Life Speak)
Worship leaders, we need the real you, living lives undivided. We need your experiences, your hope, your heartache, and your artistic creativity. Our churches do not need a copy version of Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, or Kirk Franklin. Nor do we need a persona or mask that you might wear.
No matter what position you hold in your church, you are there because someone saw potential in you and called it out. They believe in you! What a humbling and affirming realization. The same holds true for any artistic position in ministry – from video and lighting artists to writers and dancers.
Your voice matters. We need your voice. We need your experiences, insights, questions, and pushbacks.
If you have tendencies similar to mine, I encourage you to intentionally do one thing each day that requires breaking out of your shell. Start tapping and scratching. I dare you to break out.