Grown

By , Carrollton, TX
The sound of the feedback from the microphone gradually got louder and louder, and everyone covered their ears to block out the noise. Sometimes, I wish they had kept their hands there. 290 eyes on a little eighth grader. All waiting for me to speak. Why didn’t I have the innate gift for public speaking? I was supposed to share my experience from a summer mission trip, but tears were the only things that came out instead. How was it that I could play piano with the praise team in front of a huge congregation, but I couldn’t even say my own name without feeling queasy? Inhale. Exhale. Temperature rising in my face. Turned around. Gathered myself. Turned back to the audience. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. At least they were laughing with me…or it might have been at me. Either way, I ran off crying. Four years have passed since this embarrassing day with no change in my life, but one moment; it took only one moment to change everything.

The praise team knew me as the little girl who could, in everything besides singing. Newsong United—that’s what we called ourselves— united as one team, as one family and one body of Christ. Talent ran through each members’ blood: James, who led us with his incredible voice; Edwin and Chris, who were our two astounding self-taught drummers; Kevin, who was our human tuner with perfect pitch; Rebekah and both of the Hannahs, who all three had unique and heavenly voices; William, who rocked as our electric guitarist, and finally, there was Daniel, who was just as amazing as John Mayer on guitar, and who also played piano, drums, bass, viola, violin, the ukulele, and… am I missing something here? Then, there was me. I only played second keyboard, and no matter how much I wanted to sing out in praise, I couldn’t breathe when that black microphone was in front of me. Envy arose every time my friends sang on stage with such ease. Why didn’t I get those genes, God? Even when I did mic tests for the singers each week, my face turned red as I said the simple “check, check, 1, 2, 3.” Nonetheless, I continued to play with my heart, with all that I had, with everything I had, every week.

One day in August, James, Chris, William and I were leading worship time at a Wednesday night service. The service was ending, and our pastor asked us to come up and play again as we transitioned into prayer time. Drums slowed down, the electric guitar filled in the empty spaces, and my piano played in harmony together. No sheet music, no set lyrics, this time right now was spontaneous. Nothing more than the music, myself, and God. Knowing that my voice would be drowned out by the sounds of the instruments, I sang, sang whatever words came out. Eyes closed. Hands on the keys. I smiled that I could sing to Him. Then, I heard it—my voice. It was amplified and clear, but puzzling all at the same time; how could I hear it so well? Resonating all around me, the sound filled up the very room I walked into a couple of hours ago. I finally opened my eyes, and found a black microphone standing just inches away from my face. I stepped back in bewilderment; this was James’ microphone! It turns out, while I had my eyes closed, James had quietly placed the microphone stand behind my keyboard and set it up perfectly for my height. He wanted people to hear me sing, but flushed with fear and embarrassment; I shot my leader a perplexed look. Keep singing, he mouthed. My eyes diverted from one side of the room to the other. A sweat trickled down my forehead even in the air-conditioned church. My hands jumbled over the keys and I played a few wrong chords which threw William off and confused him. Lord, I can’t do this. Still consumed with that recurring memory, I looked up in desperation, silently praying for an angel to come distract the congregation.

Then, something supernatural happened. No, an angel didn’t actually come. God’s voice didn’t shake the room nor did the sprinklers above us go off; I remembered why I was up on stage. When I joined the team several years ago, I didn’t join so that people will know that I, Laura Mimi Chong who had stage fright, play piano—I played because that’s all I had to give. Even though I served as the second keyboard position, I enjoyed everything about it because I could make music for Him. However, staying in my comfort zone wasn’t what God had planned for me; He wanted me to face my biggest fear and to sing for Him. The remembrance of the love that He showed me and all the times that He was faithful came rushing back. Thoughts of all my quiet times flooded into my memory and I realized more and more, God doesn’t care how I sound and whether I’m ten or twenty years old; He only looks at the heart. So I sang.

Every week was something different after I was appointed to lead Wednesday nights a month after that experience. Even after a whole school year passed by, I remember that day like it was yesterday. He gave me a chance that I couldn’t refuse, and I know this won’t be the end of them, too. I was reminded that I didn’t have to try to be perfect. Do what I can do with these muscles I have, and let the Big Guy upstairs take care of the rest. Ready or not, life’s going to thrust hardships and obstacles right in my face, but I’ll overcome. Looking back now, I was never alone. Looking back now, I think I’ve grown. Not physically, but spiritually, mentally and emotionally, I think I’ve grown.





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