Why I Sing - The Motive Behind the Music
My mother used to often tell the story of a time when she attended the school Christmas play of my older sister. At one point, the children began to sing, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Every time they got to "five golden rings", I would belt out the melody in intelligible gibberish, but perfect pitch. The lady behind her finally asked, "Can't you keep her from singing?" My mother's response: "She's only nine months old!" Nine months old, and singing on key, every time. And so it began. (smile)
People who have heard me sing often tell me, "If I could sing like you, I would be singing all the time! Nobody could shut me up!" My response is always, "No you wouldn't. The gift that you WERE given, you're not doing that all the time, are you?"
Yes, I have been blessed with the gift of singing. Even though I enjoy my voice as much as the next person, I don't break out in song every waking moment. Or even most moments. The fact is, lots of people have gifts that they aren't using. Sometimes when people haven't seen me for a while they ask, "Are you still singing?" I am often tempted to say, "No, I gave that up years ago!" (insert sarcasm here)
I actually know a few people who are great singers, dancers, or musicians, but who no longer exercise their gift. Personally, I couldn't imagine that but, sadly it happens. So, with a singing portfolio that spans more than four decades (and counting!), one might ask, "Why DO you sing?" I suppose that question could be answered in a number of ways. We've already established that having a gift doesn't necessarily motivate someone to use it. Perhaps it could be:
1) Because people want me to.
Quite frankly, people truly enjoy my singing. And so naturally, people have come to expect me to sing. Every. Where. I. Go. I was brought up in church and essentially grew up singing there. And my first self-appointed agents and managers were (and continue to be) my family. No shortage of singing opportunities with that bunch! You can imagine the scene: a visitor comes over, and at some poin I get that dreaded call into the living room where I am "volun-told" to sing. I hated when that happened! And if only I could count the times during a church service, where the mantra was, "Be ye also ready." It would be commonplace to hear, "Sis. Valerie, would you bless us with a selection? Or two?" Without exaggeration, I can say that I've sung at literally EVERY school, job or other organization with which I have been affiliated.
But beyond the usual draft scenarios, I have been called upon to sing at a variety of different places. They range from being requested to sing in the hospital room adjacent to a sick family member (to comfort a family who's loved one had just passed on), to belting out an impromptu chorus for a cashier at a department store (just because I looked like I'd come from church!), to learning a song in Spanish and singing it for my college class... Then one time -- and this is one of my favorites -- my hairstylist was washing my hair and refused to continue with the process until I sang a song for the rest of the salon patrons! Close friends and family often tease me with a familiar refrain heard from so many down through the years, which has now become the soundtrack of my life... "Sing, Valerie!" The Bible says that a man's gift makes room for himself (Proverbs 16:18). And that has certainly proved true in my life! But let's face it, you can find a good singer on any street corner. So perhaps it's...
2) Because I can get paid!
I am often asked, "Why don't you try out for American Idol or The X-Factor or The Voice?" Aside from being past the acceptable age range (at least for the first show), I have never had the desire to be in "the business." I never even had a desire to record music until the last decade, when I began to write songs as well. The Bible says that a workman is worthy of his hire (1Timothy 5:18). So yes, it is reasonable to expect compensation for providing a quality service. And I am grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded me to use my gift and be compensated for it. But making money has never been the driving motive for lifting my voice in song.
So, despite these very true and valid realities, none of them adequately describe the real reason I sing.
Quite simply, I sing because, I must! But not in the sense of obligation or duty. This is not a coercive must, but a compelling must. I am compelled by the gift Giver to do so. The Creator has fashioned me in such a way as to make singing one of my highest sources of fulfillment. We, the creation, will never be truly fulfilled if we are not fulfilling the purpose for which we have been created! And I was created to sing! What's more, music is a medium through which God has chosen to release other gifts that He's placed within me. I have also been given the gifts of encouragement and consolation, which go hand in hand. And it is the marrying of these gifts with singing that makes delivering a song more than just putting a melody to words. Whether I am providing entertainment at a corporate function, or leading praise and worship during a church service, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to use my instrument to uplift the spirit of those in attendance. It's the difference between using a talent and exercising a gift. And this awareness is reflected in how I choose songs, and in what I share before I sing.
God has blessed me with gifts that have the ability to soothe the soul, to inspire hope, and to impart comfort and strength. And as paradoxical as it may seem, the giving of my gifts to others, gives life to me! For me, music is synonymous with ministry, which means "to serve." And it comes as naturally for me as flying does to a bird or swimming to a fish. I MUST sing!
We have all been given gifts that were designed to enhance the lives of those around us. And until we fulfill our purpose in the use of those gifts, we (and those to whom we've been sent) will not experience our highest fulfillment. I am supremely grateful to my Creator for blessing me with this gift. And sharing it with the world is the way that I honor His creative wisdom (see Rom. 9:20-11). It's also the way I say thank You.
Romans 9:20-21 "You are only human, and human beings have no right to question God. An object should not ask the person who made it, “Why did you make me like this?” The potter can make anything he wants to make. He can use the same clay to make one thing for special use and another thing for daily use."
What gifts have you been given? How are you using them right now? What is one thing you can do today to begin using your gifts?