The Performance

It’s when the hands began to get sweaty that I realized I was sinking into anxiety. Part of me wondered if the lotion I had used that morning was that good, but there was no way. My body did not wait long to confirm my suspensions. A prolonged yawn erupted from my mouth. I was tense, and it was bothering me.

The same issues always arise when I am out of my element. My hands get sweaty, my stomach starts gurgling, and I yawn every few minutes. As someone who enjoys being in his comfort zone and in peace, these physiological changes bothered me even more. Some would call it a panic attack, but I operated as if I needed to get over myself.

How many other people had gotten on a stage, week after week, and performed? Yet, here I was, about to breakdown in the rear of the sanctuary. Quietly, I rubbed my hands against my slacks as the choir team practiced on the stage before me.

I was jealous. They had been on stage enough times to be somewhat comfortable. They knew their voices weren’t going to crack. They knew just how much water to bring or drink before each song. They knew how the faces of the crowd would affect them. They knew how their bodies looked on camera. I was the one who did not know.

This was my first time being on stage. The crowd was only going to be a hundred or more people. I knew most of them, but that didn’t stop another elongated yawn from exiting my mouth. If I bombed my performance, they would all know and remind me of it over the next few weeks with their encouraging remarks and words of wisdom such as, “At least you know what not to do now.” I hated it.

I also hated that I was nervous. Who were these people to me? We all came to church every week. We all came to remind ourselves that we have been, are, and will always be forgiven for our sins and mistakes. We all knew the seventh chapter of the book of Matthew. We definitely weren’t in the stoning days. Who were they to judge me?

None of these minor details calmed me down. They only put up a wall of protection as thick a single sheet of paper. I was freaking out. I needed help.

I bowed my head and began to pray. Surely, the God who set me on this path would be readily available to help me in my hour of need. Talking to God always calmed me down, and I was just starting to make it a habit of praying even in the midst of my distress. The weight of my calling was straining.

When I asked God what I should do with my life a decade ago, He shared with me a vision in a dream. In that dream, I stood upon a stage in a dark theater. A spotlight was shining down on me as I spoke into a microphone extending up from a clear podium. The audience was quiet as I held an award in my hand speaking words that I could not hear. I awoke to God saying clearly in my spirit, “That’ll be you someday.”

I did not have many talents, in my opinion, but I knew I loved to write, and writers found their way to stages all the time. Some of them were even rewarded for their stories. I didn’t start writing until the year after I was baptized. It was a hobby I could not get rid of, even for video games, football, money, or stability. It all connected for me. I had to write. Thus, I decided that would be my path to this stage the Lord revealed to me. However, from the lighting and the lack of a microphone on the podium, I knew this church was not the manifestation of that vision, but I also knew this was the first of many stages to come, and I needed to make a statement here and now.

I took deep breaths as I finished my prayer. I stood with my Bible, pages of poetry, notebook, and water bottle, and walked to the front of the sanctuary, feeling every weighted step clashing with the white tiles. The prayer had only done so much. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. All I could do was keep moving as I breathed deeply. As long as I was on the move, my brain could focus on something other than the very many fears that were storming my thoughts. If I could still walk, I could definitely talk.

My feet led me down aisle after aisle, pacing between the black chairs connected by small, metal bars on the sides. These chairs would be filled soon, and those who filled them would be staring at the stage as I walked forward. What if some laughed? What if some stared in confusion? What if my throat went dry?

I exhaled, annoyed, yet laughing at myself, with my overthinking. I sat down near the sound booth to the right of where I sat originally. I took a sip of water and pulled out my poem from my notebook and Bible. I read through the lines again. I had read through these lines over a dozen times, but I had to remember. I didn’t want to space out and lose my spot, having to repeat the words that I already said once before.

How could any of these poets remember their lines? I had seen performance after performance where poets stood up on stage and quoted their lines without sheets of paper, a teleprompter, or a phone. What kind of training did they receive? Had they written as many poems as I had? Were they all just remembering only a few poems at a time?

My hands shook the pages within my grasp. My eyes focused back down as I looked at the words once more. It was a good poem. Even if I didn’t perform it well, it was a really well-done poem. I couldn’t imagine how I had written it.

I exhaled, proud of myself, though I was terrified of failing. I stood up and my feet paced again. I avoided eye contact to not let on that I was losing it. This time, I came around to the back of the sanctuary. I looked through the tiny windows halfway up the tall walls at the back of the sanctuary and looked into the small portion of the sky that I was allowed to see.

I knew God was watching me. I knew He prepared me. I knew He was proud of me. I just didn’t know how to calm myself down.

I continued further down the aisle towards the entry doors. Pastor Ikki entered through those same doors and I just knew he was going to have to say something to me. He needed to know I was ready to perform. I wiped my hands against my slacks just in case they’d expose me.

With his common smile, he walked up to me and reached for my hand. I grabbed his hand and shook it firmly. I was strong. I had to give off the impression that I was prepared. I didn’t need to have my performance cancelled because I was afraid to have eyes staring at me, not when he had stood up on the stage through most of the year preaching the word of God every Sunday.

“You ready? You doing alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said shaking, “I’m ready. Just nervous.”

I don’t remember what he said after that. My mind went into autopilot while my thoughts screamed, “Help!” A few nods from me, a tap on the shoulder from him, and off he went to check on the choir and the sound team.

I stood there, almost afraid to move. I went to drink some more water, and realized my bottle felt light. I looked down and noticed I had drunk more than half of the water. Now I had to add “having to go to the restroom mid-performance” to the list of fears that plaguing my mind.

I shook my head, “No.” I practiced at home when I wrote it, I practiced in the car with my mom and brother, I practiced it some more when I returned home, and I just practiced it again. I was fine, I was in control, and I was going to have a great performance.

I walked out of the sanctuary down a little hall which led to a water fountain. I held my bottle at the perfect angle and refilled it. I was coming back to my comfort zone. Before I put the cap back on, I sipped from it again. Then, a church member walked up the stairs.

The water fountain was halfway from the sanctuary entrance to the stairwell, and the voices from below echoed off the walls. I listened as the tap of each step grew louder and louder. I turned and looked down the hall. I saw a church member.

I didn’t say anything. My mouth was still swishing water from cheek to cheek. He nodded and said, “Good morning.” I simply nodded and looked behind him towards the stairs. It was a brief interaction, as they usually were with people I didn’t interact with often, but even he had me feeling like I needed to hide my terror. I had to exude confidence.

Imagine being a sizable man, average in height but two hundred and fifty-five pounds with muscle, mind you, being afraid to say his peace in front of smaller, possibly weaker people. I was less nervous in front of a crowd of fans at a football game I was expecting to play in. Something was wrong with me. It could’ve been the devil for all I know, but I was borderline trembling, and the “man up” thoughts were failing me.

I tightened the cap on my water bottle and returned towards the sanctuary. My knees felt weak, my feet felt unsure of their placing, and my mind was racing faster than the world record sprinters. I was disappointed in myself. I was weak. All the confidence other people had in me and I was contemplating cancelling the performance. I exhaled frustrated and saddened at my current state. I couldn’t even move from the entry doors to the back of the first pew. I hovered in the corner by the greeting table watching everyone else.

Pastor Ikki came back around the back aisle, aiming towards the little hallway. I hated to admit it, but I needed intervention. I reached out, halfway waving and halfway wanting to recall my hand back to my side. He noticed and approached me.

“Hey, what’s up? You good?”

Overwhelmed, I asked, “Hey- uh- can you pray for me? I’m just really nervous and it’s getting to me.”

“Yeah, sure, no problem,” he said delighted.

He grabbed my sweaty hand and gripped it tight. I felt like a fool – a grown man-child needing to be guided by the hand to do a simple task. He placed his other hand on my shoulder. We bowed our heads as he began to pray.

My mind went into autopilot again. It wasn’t the words that I was looking for, but rather the act. I felt myself nodding, but a soothing peace poured over me. It was much more prevalent than when I had prayed alone. My shaking became steady, and my mouth stopped feeling dry. I breathed slowly as I listened. My mind stayed quiet as it noted every change happening from within. I was calming back down.

Before I knew it, “Amen” had been spoken. Another tap on the shoulder, coupled with that gentle smile, and he was off towards his office. I felt lighter and felt like I could perform again. I also felt silly needing intervention. It’s not like God wasn’t with me, and it’s not like God didn’t ordain me to be a writer. I needed more confidence in myself. I was talented. They’d see that.

Just as I’d gotten my bearings back, the choir director, Nicky, walked up to me smiling. She was just as excited about my performance as I was. She couldn’t wait to hear it. She led me down the aisle to the front stage to go over the necessities for the performance.

We talked about the positioning, the timing, the length of the poem, and the need of a microphone. My poem was cutting into the praise and worship, the sermon, or both. I had five minutes, and I could not exceed that time at all. It was Easter service, and every single minute was occupied with a special event. Multiple services required each performance to be neat and on script. No extra time was allotted anywhere.

I was handed the microphone I’d use. Nicky showed me how to turn the microphone on and off. I placed the papers down on the clear podium in front of me and visualized how I’d flip the pages while trying to maintain eye contact while trying to read without my voice failing me. The microphone would help, but if my voice cracked, it’d also help that.

There’d be a crowd looking up to me. I would be looking down to them. Would they have a spotlight on me? Would that spotlight be too bright? Would it distract me? What if someone’s baby started crying? My mind stopped as I was called over to the choir.

The four band members, the two lead singers, and the three other choir members stood in a circle. They made just enough room for me as they stood hand-in hand. They waved me over, desiring me to join them in their time of prayer. I felt welcomed.

Again, I could not tell you what was spoken. I can’t even tell you who spoke it. All I remember was feeling relief. My performance no longer felt like some daunting task, but it felt like the opportunity I had been waiting for. My confidence was surging and I knew it was God.

After I head “Amen”, I watched the choir to see what they’d do. Everyone dispersed as they either went to converse, drink water, or simply get away from the stage. I stood one last time on the stage before my performance and looked out into the pews. The Holy Spirit was definitely with me. I could recognize that now.

I smiled with excitement and headed back to the little hallway leading to the sanctuary. I caught Ryan, our other choir director, taking a sip of water. We shook hands and he asked how I was doing. I was able to tell him without any shake in my voice. I was excited now. I was no longer afraid.

He gave me a few pointers as I complimented him on performing every Sunday. I had greater appreciation for our choir that day. Not only were they multi-racial, but they were also multi-talented. Every day, they stood up on that stage and shared their talent with hundreds of people out of reverence to God and admiration for the craft of singing and playing instruments. I couldn’t help but appreciate that a Black man and a Hispanic woman led worship while an Asian man would preach the sermon. I didn’t know how they did it up until this point, but I was certainly closer to understanding their routines, expectations, and peace.

As the hour approached, I waited near the back of the sanctuary. It felt like waiting in the tunnel before a football game. I was nervous, but excited. I was anxious but focused. I planned to do damage when I got on that stage. It wasn’t about being a talented writer. It was about proving to everyone who would ever hear my writing that God meant for me to do this. It felt like my anointing was on the line, and I wasn’t about to let anything, even a crying baby, ruin it.

I walked to the front of the sanctuary and sat on the second row just behind Pastor Ikki. I kept quiet, trying to preserve my voice for the performance. I listened to the opening hymn. I listened to the morning announcements. I participated in the Nicene Creed. I waited through the praise and worship. Finally, it was my turn.

Quickly, I slipped my phone to Pastor Ikki and asked that he record. I stepped up onto the stage, grabbed the microphone, and centered my body before the podium. My heart was beating fast, my hands were shaking, my legs felt weak, but I was ready to command my voice and express my talent. In my poem, I’d ask, “What kind of power you got?” and I was about to show them.

“Good morning,” I managed to say.

The crowd, at a much louder tone, returned with, “Good morning.”

I looked at all the faces looking at me with expectation. I was not scared. I belonged. I spread out my pages onto the podium, as I practiced. I placed my Bible in the upper corner, as I had rehearsed. I took one last deep breath, and I let loose, performing “Resurrection Power”[1] with passion:


All rise in respect to the Risen King!

For His glory demands it!

Just like He demanded Satan hand Him the key

To the very gate that opens the pit.

We celebrate the acts of a Man who came to earth with a plan,

Yet we allow our fantasies to rest in peace

Like the cross didn't speak

A message profound to the spiritually hungry.

A message that said that which you thought was dead

Now has the chance to be resurrected.


That broken dream is still something that has yet to be.

Who told you it was a rotten thing?

When did sickness become stronger than God?

Why does sin sound familiar, and His voice odd?

When did God plant desires you couldn't achieve!?

What kind of power you got!?

Even the wicked excel at wicked things!

Yet you cower about in your busyness and pride,

Hiding in your shame, hoping time will make it die,

But God cries in thunder and lightning "Come alive!"


Look at the cross...


Is He still hanging, arms wide?

Again, what kind of power you got?

Because Satan wants that power to be forgotten.

Speak to that desert rock

And demand water flow from it like a river.


Now the angel Herman Boone asks you again,

"Will. You. Ever. Quit?"

And you better respond like Jesus is your friend,

"No! We want some mo'. We want some mo'. We want some mo'"

More blessings, more strength, more wisdom, more goals,

More hurdles, more Him, more Kingdom, more boldness.


We live in a world that's determined to be tarnished,

And yet hope arises like a bride to a helpless romantic.

Take back the things in the trash heap.

God is pleading, "Give My dreams back to Me."

And I declare, it is time for victory...


I look at my God...


And I look at my problems...


And all I can say is...


"We want some mo, we want some mo, we want some mo."

What is pain but a prelude to gain?

What is death but a prelude to resurrection?

My God resurrected.

I believe in what He did.

I see these chains of mine that He shed.

The greatness in me isn't an ideal in my head.

I am too strong to be strung along.

No more worthless excuses.

When I hold them up to God, they are useless.

Tiny specks of dust before the mountain.

I am made for more.

Quiet all those sins and circumstances.

I wish to hear my Savior speak.


"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me

Will also do the works that I do;

And greater works than these will he do,

Because I am going to the Father."


Hush Satan, the Savior speaks.

To His faithful few, this He has decreed.

Now I ask again,

What kind of power you got?

Anyone can make excuses,

But who out there can move mountains?

Can't you hear the horn of victory sounding?

It's time to come alive!

Don't leave your dreams by the wayside.

He hung His head and said it is finished.

There is not one circumstance He failed to mention.

Take back the key to living life successfully.

Lift up your swords and claim your victory.

Amen.


The crowd cheered, clapped, and stood as I quickly retreated from the stage. I smiled nervously as I sat back in my seat. I received shoulder pats, handshakes, and thumbs up from every direction. People really liked it. I was relieved not being the center of attention. I began to feel that I had given the performance way too much unneeded stress. It was fun.

Service went on as it had been doing long before I decided to stand on that stage. However, I did decide to stand on that stage. I decided to trust that what God told me so very long ago was true. I would be on stages in front of people. This time, it was to perform a poem for Easter Sunday. The next time, I could be standing where He said I’d be standing: inside a theater, beneath a spotlight, dressed in a blue shirt, leaned over a clear podium with a skinny microphone extending upwards from it, accepting an award for something that I had done.

“Resurrection Power” was the first of many steps I’d take to ensure that I’d retrieve the promise God gave me all those years ago. Nothing, even a near panic attack, nor nervousness or anxiety, will stop me. God pouted His spirit out over me through the many prayers and I found peace in the midst of distress. Every performance since then has been a lot easier to perform. All because I know Who called me to the stage…



If you wish to see that performance, click below... [1] https://youtu.be/NUX_pc_NA-A


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