Tone-Deaf and Proud of it!
The Gong Show: The Beginning
Singing. I have always loved singing. When I was 8 years old, the Vermilion Fish Festival (my town’s yearly festival honoring all things dealing with fish) decided to have a gong show as part of the festivities. Much to my brother and sister’s chagrin, I entered the contest. They begged my parents not to make them watch it. After all, they had reps to protect. My brother, Bill actually walked the railroad trestle, over the Vermilion River to escape the embarrassment. So at 8 years old, I sang “You Light up My life” acapella in front of all of Vermilion. If American Idol was around in ’78, I would have made the beginning part of the season. I was that bad. The only reason I did not get gonged was due to the fact that 2 of the 3 judges were my siblings teachers. And really… who would traumatize an 8-year-old and gong her?!?
All this came flooding back to me today. I was cleaning the house and listening to worship music. I was singing away when I noticed Gracie (the dog) running into her crate. You know it’s bad when even the dog tries to hide from your singing! Too bad for Gracie there wasn’t a trestle for her escape!
During college an incident occurred while I was interning at my home church in Vermilion. My pastor was going on vacation and asked me to be in charge of the Wednesday night Bible study. This included leading worship. I knew no good could come of this. One of my friends played the key board for me. Unbeknownst to her, when it was time to sing, I turned my microphone off so she was leading. She was incredibly nervous so I could not tell her. When it was all said and done, I told my dad the story. He laughed and then he offered to pay for voice and piano lessons when I went back to school in the fall. He said “obviously it’s something you’re going to have to do in the future, better get prepared.”
When I went back for my junior year at Bible college I signed up for both voice and piano lessons. The day of my first voice lesson finally arrived. I had not slept at all the night before. I was so nervous. I told my roommate how nervous I was. I said “She’s going to give me my money back, I know it.” She insisted that I was overreacting, that I just had low self-esteem. All I needed was confidence. And that Miss Gordon was too nice and had never given anyone their money back. I didn’t agree but didn’t argue the point further. Walking from the apartments to the admin building seemed like a death walk to me. My stomach hurt. I wanted to throw up, call in sick but I made myself go.
Miss Gordon was the music professor at college. She was/is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Some students would call her Barney. She always smiled, never got mad, and made everyone feel good. I never heard a negative word come from her mouth. I walked into the lab. She started to play some notes and told me to sing on pitch. I had no idea what pitch even was. To me it was something you used to fix a roof or something a pitcher threw. After ten minutes, she stopped playing. And this is what she said to me (it’s burned in my memory some 15 years later), “Heidi, I am going to call the office and get you a full refund on your money. There are just some people in life who are tone-deaf. You will never be able to sing a solo or lead worship. In fact, if you did, you’d be an embarrassment to yourself and to everyone else.” That seems pretty harsh. It wasn’t. As soon as she said it, I started crying. Not because I was devastated but because I was so relieved! It was like this incredible pressure had been released from me. I knew I didn’t have low self-esteem (at least in this area). She was trying to console me. I insisted she did not need to. God used that moment to show me that I do not have to be able to do everything in ministry. It’s why we need each other. Some people can sing like angels, while others can preach, some can counsel, others can work with kids and youth. We all have a place and we cannot spend our time wishing we had someone else’s talent and neglect the talent that God has given each of us.
I am reminded of the Peter the apostle. He had denied Jesus 3 times and was heartbroken. Jesus comes to him after He was resurrected. Jesus proceeds to ask Peter 3 times if HE loves Him. Jesus uses this to re-instate Peter as a leader and to take his shame away. Almost immediately after this exchange is over, Peter looks to John, the beloved disciple, and asks Jesus “well, what about him.” Basically, what are you going to do with him? Where does he fit? Jesus says, in a nutshell, whatever I want to do with him, I will do. Don’t worry about it. It’s none of your business. Don’t compare yourself to him. You do what I have called you to do. You all have a place and a job to do. We all have something God has called us to do. For some of us, it’s singing or preaching or teaching. For others, it’s being the best mom/wife/dad/husband you can be. Or the best electrician, politician, engineer, cop, fireman, etc….whatever it is, do not despise it by wishing you were someone else or had someone else’s gift.
There will be a day when this life is over, my voice will be as beautiful as the angels. Until then I cannot sing. I am tone-deaf. I make dogs run. And I am perfectly okay with that! 🙂