In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Professor Snape makes an unbreakable vow.
For all you non-nerds out there, an unbreakable vow is an oath made between two people where if either of them break it-they die. It is the driving plot of the story and it turns out there is a twist at the end.
It kind of reminds me of the covenant between Abraham and God.
Oaths and vows are interesting things. Sometimes we say them out loud as a declaration for the world to hear. And other times, they are whispered in our soul so quietly we may not even realize what we have done.
When was the last time you made a vow?
I made one my senior year of high school when I was in the musical Godspell.
For all you non-thespians, Godspell is a musical written in the 70’s. It brings the Gospel of Matthew to life in a very quirky, Gilda Radner/Bill Murray SNL meets bad Sunday school pantomime kind of way. It’s weird and I love it.
It is made up of an ensemble cast which means everyone plays a bunch of different roles and everyone sings. When it came time to audition, there was this one song that really wanted called “Turn back, Oh Man.” It was low and throaty and sassy. A little May West if you will. When my director gave me the part, I was ecstatic.
Growing up, I wasn’t the most athletic kid on the field. I was what you might call, a butterfly chaser. Add a dash of accident prone and I never made it more than a season in any sport. Soccer. Field hockey. Cheer leading. One season wonder.
But, man was I creative. My friend Shannon Granath and I spent HOURS making videos with my mom’s giant camcorder. We did fake news. Movie spoofs. Lip syncs. There were costume changes and bad accents. And they were tight. Had I been born a just a few years later (cough, cough), YouTube would have been my jam. I loved any and all things creative.
My mom recognized that and set me up with all these incredible outlets to express myself. The biggest opportunity came when I was a sophomore in high school. We had just moved to Williamsburg, VA from Tennessee and my new school had a magnet school for theatre built in. It was my mom’s encouragement led me to try out. And being a part of the York County School of the Arts was a game changer for me in high school. Besides Young Life, it was my saving grace. And I loved every minute of it. Until the last show, my senior year.
Yup, you guessed it. Godspell.
Now, up until this point in my life, I had never sung publicly. Nor had any proper training. I can’t tell you if I was a good or bad singer. I just loved to sing. So I just assumed if I was given a solo it was because I was qualified.
But as rehearsals started, it became very clear that “Turn Back, Oh Man” was not in my range. And I knew it. And the director knew it. So I took lessons and worked with different people to try and get it. But the more I tried, the clearer it became I didn’t have the pipes for this particular song. I begged my director to let me sing in a falsetto like Adelaide from Guys and Dolls but she wasn’t feeling my vibe.
So opening night came. And I sang.
And it wasn’t terrible.
Until the last show where everything fell apart.
As part of my character, I had a boa and would saunter into the audience while singing my song. Something glitched that night and I blanked. Lost the words and the tune. I can still hear the panic in my voice and see the look on my face as I turned to the guy playing Jesus and screeched “FLAAAAAAMES.” Yes, I saw the look on my face because in that moment I was having my only out-of-body experience to date.
To the audience, it was bad.
To my 17 year old self, it was catastrophic.
Part humiliation. Part mortification. Equally devastating.
And in the words of Brene Brown, I went into a shame spiral. That night, I made a vow that I would never sing in public again. And I haven’t. I love music and to watch people sing. But I have not gone on stage to sing with a mic in my hand since high school.
What I did not realize until recently was that I also made an inner vow that night. Whatever you do, do not put yourself in a situation where you will ever feel like that again.
And I haven’t.
That night, a part of my creative heart died.
The playful, silly, free spirited side of me became more controlled, more calculated and cautious. I stopped wanting to be on stage and perform.
As I am writing this I’m having total “Aha moments.”
It’s why I never pursued program with Young Life.
Why I gave away all my ideas in college. And sat on the sidelines while other people took credit for my material.
To this day, the only time I will risk being on stage is if I know the outcome. Which is rarely.
And the problem with vows like that is that they trickle over into other areas of ours lives. And rob us of all that God has for us. We begin living half lives. Shadows of ourselves. The men and women that God created us to be.
Just the other day, my dad asked how he could pray for me. I told him that I need more fun in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have an amazing life. My cup overflows with blessings. With incredible people and things to do.But when he asked me how he could pray, the words flew out of my mouth before I had time to think.
And as I sit here typing this, I realize that God is answering my prayer. I think he wants to revive the playful, silly, free spirited part of me that he created. To bring that part of me back from the dead.
You might be wondering where all of this is coming from. Or from where it came.
A while ago, my friend Leeann and I went to see a high school musical. And it was painful. Like “abs hurt the next day from laughing so hard” special. I wish I could say it was because the performance was such a comedic success. But alas, that was not the case. It was more tears rolling down your face, shoulders shaking, please don’t let any sound come out of my mouth painful.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I have inappropriate laughter issues that surface at the worst times. People get hurt, I laugh. Funerals, I laugh. Heartfelt confessions, you get the idea. I once had to excuse myself from a meeting because I lost my mind in a fits of giggles when all the adults in the room kept talking about their duties. I just kept hearing doodies. And I lost it. Openly. Could not get it back together and just removed myself from the situation lost it.
Thankfully, Leeann and I powered through the performance and were able to keep it together. Just barely.
The show as a whole wasn’t that bad. As far as acting, the acting and blocking were solid. It was the singing where they struggled. Like stuuuhhhh-gggulllledddd. To make matters worse, it was opening night and there were maybe 60 of us. Including the cast and the 5 musicians. In an auditorium that sat at least 500, if not more. So it was a big space. With just a few fans.
And God is so funny. And sweet. And kind. Because it was in the middle of this theatrical debacle, that he healed a wound that I have unknowingly been carrying around for twenty years (this April).
Now I’m sure you are dying to know what brought on this sky splitting, heavens opening, wound healing epiphany that is blowing my mind. And I’ll tell you.
It was a high school girl in pig tails.
From the moment the play started, she was one of my favorites. She was funny and quirky and totally committed to her part. Her timing was on. Her star was shining.
And then, she sang a solo.
And it was terrible.
But it was awesome.
Because she went for it. And she owned it. Every off key note and tone deaf moment, whether she knew it or not, was sung with gusto and flair.
And I admired her for it.
She was brave. And charming. And awful.
Sitting there watching her singing her heart out, I kind of fell in love with her.
Then she sang the harmony on a duet and I was smitten. The most amazing part of that whole theatrical delight was that her partner could actually sing. And was able to maintain the melody while our little songbird fluttered all over the tune.
And in that moment, I realized that my terrible, awful, catastrophic moment of humiliation and mortification might not have been as traumatic as I thought.
My prayer for her is that she (and the whole cast really) were able to soar through the production unscathed.
My prayer for me is that God will continue to set me free from the vow I made so long ago. I believe that he has broken it’s power. Now, he’s taking out the shrapnel it left behind.
And my prayer for you is that if you have made any vows that are keeping you from living life to the fullest, you will ask God will reveal them to you. So you can be free.
I’m excited to see what happens next.
Love, Love, Love
The Girl Who Lives In My Head
P.S. I may or may not have started practicing some karaoke numbers for the next time the opportunity presents itself.