I am just catching up on the miracle that is Steffany Gretzinger’s 2014 album, “The Undoing”. This album, her first full solo piano album, comes from a place of deep vulnerability and rawness, which is precisely what pulls listeners into her worship and her questions.
The words of her songs echoed and formed my prayers, my communication with God - in this recent challenging season. There are lines like having “no fear in love” that I have prayed for myself and for the people I love each day. There are songs that invite us into deep intimacy with God, like “Cecie's Lullaby”, that proclaim from the perspective of God how adoringly we are cradled by Him, and that we can find our soul’s truest rest there. And most impactfully for me, there are songs that over and over again reminded me that our God calls us towards Him and away from fear. My favorite on the album is this song, “Out Of Hiding (Father's Song)”, that sings, “Come out of hiding/You're safe here with Me/There's no need to cover/What I already see...Now rid of the shackles, My victory's yours/I tore the veil for you to come close/There's no reason to stand at a distance anymore/You're not far from home.” The final and most powerful line of the song says, “And oh as you run, what hindered love will only become part of the story.” Amen!
Honesty and depth are the keys to bridging the disconnect between artist and audience, and Steffany does this masterfully by welcoming listeners into her personal process. If she had chosen to be more discreet about her feelings, or more diplomatic with her word choice, that sugarcoating of those more difficult concepts may have cut off the organic connection formed in this “me, too” exchange. In writing music and performing music, that rawness is irreplaceable in connecting with the audience, especially in worship-leading, when the audience is being invited to participate in the experience corporately.
As we discern how genuine and honest we are to be in singing, writing, teaching, and leading, we often run into the line of “appropriate” vulnerability. How much can be shared about our own pain and processes before we make our audience uncomfortable? How honest can we be in describing our doubts before our “fit for leadership” is examined? When is sharing our experiences helpful, when is it distracting, and when is it self-serving? Is there a clear line anywhere that we can make a “share this, not this” list? It doesn’t seem so.
We know we can’t please everyone, but we also can’t throw our sensitivity to leadership principles out the window for the sake of constant emotional transparency. I believe that there is a key to this. “GOD gives out Wisdom free, is plainspoken in Knowledge and Understanding. He’s a rich mine of Common Sense for those who live well, a personal bodyguard to the candid and sincere. ” (Proverbs 2:6-7) I believe that the person we are leading others in worship to actually cares about our honesty, our truthfulness, and our lives, even on stage. Beyond that, I believe He will guide us moment by moment in our leadership if we trust Him enough to submit our plans (and truthfulness) to Him. He is gentle with our tender places, but also is trustworthy for us to follow Him out of them when the time calls for it.
We know we won’t be perfect, that “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” (James 3:2) However, we also know that God is with us. Our pain is not always comfortable, and our seasons are not always discernible, but I believe that God asks us to trust Him in worship in the midst of that. May we be genuine worshippers of God first, and leaders second.
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
I am certain that He uses others to minister to me through their experiences, sometimes very raw ones, and I believe that He does that through me, as well. If Steffany Gretzinger wasn’t brutally honest and raw in her writing and singing, this season of life would look significantly different for me personally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am so glad that she was brave enough to be honest and hope that I will be the kind of leader who chooses trusting God with my vulnerability and sharing it however He may lead.