My sister Dawn, who is a professional jazz singer and I recently auditioned for The Voice in Los Angeles. I have always loved singing and sung in church as well as the shower. I actually have been told that I have a very good voice. My sister Dawn had persuaded me to go with her and try out. I love new experiences and new challenges and my faith said “go”. Tired, after only getting three hours of sleep the night before, we set out to drove from South Pasadena to downtown LA.
Nothing prepared us for what we both experienced yesterday at The Voice tryouts. There were some hard lessons learned that, I believe can help all of us face what is coming in the future. No, not singing auditions, I am talking about the mass-fear that earth-shaking social, political, economical and geophysical events could generate in the minds of the masses should large events – covered live in our internet age, ever transpire. That is the automatic, brain-stem-based primitive fear response in the minds of Christians and non-Christians alike.
Let me explain. First of all, we arrived at the LA Exposition Center around 7:15 am and collided with an enormous line of people. By the time we had lined up there must have been 2000 people already in front of us. They moved the line as we were in an exhaust-filled garage and they need to get us in the fresh-air. After waiting for 3 hours in line we finally could sit down and they ushered us into a very large room and seated us in sections.
Now, the interesting part… The anxiety and fear in the room was palpable. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of man, etc. It was overwhelming. Being prophetic, my spiritual and natural senses were bombarded and not having my Bose noise-cancelling headphones with me, the noise from the singing and guitar-playing contestants was driving me crazy. My world was being invaded. And…I am going over the words of my song in my mind – almost incessantly. Very unusual for me. Instead of this being a happy time, it was a nerve-racking time. I found myself afraid, afraid that I would embarrass myself and forget my lines. Afraid that the judges would stop me mid-song because I sounded terrible – which I KNEW I was not. The thoughts and fears of those around me had invaded my mind.
There was nothing to prepare me for this negative group-think immersion. It caught me off-guard.
To top-it-off as I was softly singing my song the guy in a leather jacket in front of me said “NOT Josh Groban! Anyone who is classically trained can sing that song!” This caused me to doubt my choice. My entire atmosphere of joy and confidence was now shattered – and replaced by the fleshly, fear and now doubt affected by the pride and critical-ness of this young man. I thought to myself, if you are so good, why are you here auditioning? Haven’t you made it big yet?
Now the doubts. Why was I here on my day off? Why would I ever think that I could make it to the next round let alone thinking that I could actually win the upcoming competition? I can’t think and I am so tired! The fear in the room – the fear that permeated the large atmosphere was changing my thinking, it was affecting my memory and my self confidence.
My other problem was I had just learned my song, “You raise me up” the night before and I was forgetting some of the words. Finally, they called the next six rows and we were on row six! We followed the lady and she led us upstairs and to and we entered the final room There was only one judge and 8 strangers in there plus Dawn and myself making 10. We had to sing before the strangers. My mind went numb and so did Dawn’s. Dawn was number 5 and I was number 6. Contestant number 1 had an average voice and did pretty well. Poor contestant number 2 was extremely nervous and actually stopped her song after 10 seconds and said “I am so nervous, I cannot continue”. Wow, talk about the fear being real. Folks, (to use a pronoun that President Obama likes to use), this is what we can expect in a time of social chaos or upheaval, here I am a spirit-filled Christian and a minister and I know I can sing, but I was so affected as was my sister by the atmosphere that we were in and surrounded by.
Secondly, it was a new experience, I had never auditioned for a singing competition before and never with these kinds of stakes. There will be challenges that have never happened here in the USA before and we must not be shocked. These will be new experiences for all of us.
Thirdly, it was a new song for me – and one that a stranger just criticized. So, multiple resistances to my state-of-mind. Now, we just had a lady stop her song, after waiting for five hours to sing it. How was Dawn doing? I was about to see…
Dawn was called before me and she sang in a subdued fashion and no projection at all. It’s like the life had been sucked out of her! She later expressed to me that she almost forgot the name of her song (we had to announce the name and sing acapella, BTW) and almost went blank on the first words! Dawn is a professional jazz singer, and routinely sings in front of 50-100 people. She said to me that she had never been as nervous in front of such a small group. Remember, there was only one judge as well. As Dawn finished up, in a panic, I am serious, I pulled out the words that I had written on a napkin to review one last time. Wow, I have not done that kind of thing since high-school. Maybe I need therapy after this?
I remember a line from the movie Dune…”fear is the mind killer”. Again, my song was “You raise me up”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJxrX42WcjQ.
As number 6 was called I suddenly pulled myself together with God’s help (as we will do in times of need when society breaks down at various levels). I announced the title of my song and began to sing; the first lines were not my best but during the repeat I felt the anointing of God kick-in and I know that people in the room were touched.
Was the judge touched however?
Contestant 7 was a young man who actually did really well in my view. He said he was really nervous.
Contestants 8-10 were unremarkable.
As we all stared at the judge she stated in a conciliatory tone, “thank you all for coming out today but unfortunately none of you were selected”. I was shocked. Afterward Dawn said that I sang the best! Obviously the judge did not think that any of our performances were worthy of advancement.
Was it our age? Was it the fact that I closed my eyes the whole time when singing? I felt that it hindered my total presentation.
The moral of the story and of the experience is that nothing can prepare us if and when we begin to experience earth-shaking events that generate fear in the hearts of a broad cross-section of society like what we felt in the room today.
We will be affected but we must center our lives in god. Do not feel surprised when fear grips you, when 99% of the population is in fear as my sister and I experienced in the big auditorium. God will be with us; we just need to cultivate our relationship in intimacy and prayer with him NOW so that we can be prepared to withstand – and having done all to stand.
Whatever the future holds God holds you and me and our families in his capable and strong hands. The Body of Christ will be victorious and protected. Resist the enemy (fear) and it will flee from you.
When fear comes in, like a flood the spirit will raise a standard against him.
I am glad that I know HIS voice.
Overall the experience was positive and I was happy to participate.
Dawn mentioned to me afterwards that Chicago’s auditions were coming up…