Playing in His Shadow

The idea makes me largely uncomfortable. My church is under construction and there has been talk about moving the grand piano onto center stage. For a long time, a choir loft cut off part of the stage, leaving less room for any significant activity on the platform… until now. The construction taking place in the sanctuary will now leave room for the piano on the stage, and I’m not sure I want this to happen.

Someone is probably out there saying, “What’s the big deal? So the piano goes on the stage— what’s the problem?” Well, its an internal battle in my mind and heart that goes back to 2009 when the world was very dark and the air was thin. Many of you have read in “Cassie Contemplates” of the days when I struggled with breathing concerns and allergy attacks that never seemed to end. I had finally come to the decision to go back to school so that I might get my Masters degree. I intended to pursue a position in worship and music ministry within the context of the local church, and I was excited about the future.

I eagerly anticipated being on stage and leading music. I knew I was pursuing a job in the area of my gifts and talents and it seemed that I couldn’t have found a better opportunity for me. I was a singer. I wrote songs. I loved sharing my music with other people. It couldn’t get any better than this! Since I was a young child, I had longed to be a famous singer. My best friend in the third grade and I would make up songs together and imagine being plucked from obscurity and rise to fame through some national talent competition or television show. Of course, this was before the days of “American Idol,” so my little-girl dreams never came true. Now, here I was at age 26 ready to take the world by storm; I was going to accomplish an element of that dream— singing on stage.

Although I made it my mission to minster in the church, I still had a big ego complex. I was working hard on my music— polishing it and refining my style— all so I could be the best musician I could be. It wasn’t long before my dream to be a worship leader took hold with a passion and tenacity that surprised me; it was everything to me and I held on to it with a death grip. Like I said earlier, this was my dream and I wasn’t about to let it slip away this time.

In that season of my life, I traveled to Nashville, competed in talent shows, and sang everywhere I could get an invitation. One of my friends made a comment at that time when we talked on the phone; “I look at the newspaper or see a poster hanging up somewhere around town and I think, ‘Wow, that Cassie Lokker plays and sings at everything!’” And it was true; I was all over the place when it came to promoting and playing my music.

And then one day on tour in Fairmont, Minnesota, it was like a switch was flipped and singing became more of a battle that was too difficult to overcome. I had a severe allergy attack that night in a town far away from home. I was scared and completely vulnerable. I got the proper medical attention, but I couldn’t fall asleep in the midnight hour because I was afraid that I would stop breathing and not wake up the next morning. That allergy attack and that dark night paved the way for eighteen months of illness, fatigue, and wrestling with God. I couldn’t understand why I was so sick. Why would God take away the very breath and voice I needed to sing for Him? What about my dream? What was I going to do if I couldn’t sing? Singing was everything to me— literally everything.

The journey to healing was gradual, but I saw God at work the entire time. It was obvious that God had taken away that one thing that had almost become an idol in my life. It wasn’t uncommon for me to rail at God, telling Him that at least I had a voice to sing since I couldn’t see very well. My voice was the only thing I felt I had to offer, and that’s why I held it so closely to my heart. When my voice and breath were taken from me, I went into a tail spin, and the turmoil spun me right into the arms of my Best Friend.

“Why did you take my voice?” I would cry out to him in the dark of my bedroom. “I’m singing for You, aren’t I?”

But the more I screamed and cried, the more I knew with certainty that He was trying to tell me something. He wasn’t taking my voice from me. After all, it wasn’t my voice to begin with; He gave me a voice to sing, and it was my job to honor and glorify Him with it. But instead of honoring Hm with that gift, I had taken it and misappropriated it, making it something it was not. It took losing my voice to find something much more valuable— a deeper connection with my Savior.

Now, four years later as I sit at the piano and lead praise and worship, my perspective is different. Yes, I still struggle with ego and I like the idea of being on stage, but deep down, I know its not about me. I am leading others into God’s presence, and that is a humbling and terrifying realization all at the same time. I seek to facilitate worship that points to Him and not to the girl fumbling through a song on the piano. Let’s be honest: I don’t want the piano to go on center stage. I don’t want to go back to that time where my gifts and abilities loomed larger than life and took control of my progression forward. I am afraid that being back in the limelight will cause some of that struggle to return.

Now, I love my church family and the physical structure of our sanctuary. I am not going to fight against any decision that might be made as to the placement of the piano. But in the meantime, I seek to be real in relating my struggles and concerns to some degree, and “Cassie Contemplates” has given me that opportunity. In the weeks to come, I ask that you, my readers, would pray that I would have the grace and perspective to accept any changes that might take place. Please pray that no matter where the piano sits— whether it be on the floor to the side of the stage or in the center— that I would be able to always put Him first and be content to linger in His shadow.

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