I have always loved music, and particularly singing. When I was a teenager, there were times when I thought I'd try on a Sandi Patti or Amy Grant face. Most teenagers go through that, I suppose, although I probably never would have admitted it then. But the truth is that it wasn't about being just like Sandi or Amy. It was about something much deeper, something much stronger ... and something much more enduring.
When I was 12 years old, my parents took me to a Sandi Patti concert. I had recently given my heart to Jesus but was still struggling to understand what that meant. At that concert, when she sang "We Shall Behold Him," I suddenly understood. I understood that I had committed myself to someone who had made a place for me that was much better than any place on this earth and that because of this, I would someday go to that place and be with Him. That's what this salvation thing was about. It moved me like nothing ever had before. I remember that I cried for a couple of hours. I think it surprised my parents. I could never put in words why I couldn't stop crying. Something so deep in my soul had been touched that there were no words. I know now that for me, tears are often one of the things that happen to me when His Holy Spirit stirs within me.
That year was very painful for me emotionally, and I began learning that I could depend on God to be right there with me, carrying me through it all. I was never alone or forgotten. In February of that year, Dad took me to a Twila Paris concert. Twila had become my latest musical hero, but once again the concert experience transcended anything within the bounds of preadolescent idolization. Never had I paid such close attention to anything. Her songs validated everything I had learned from my experience of faith and made Jesus even more real to me.
At the end of her concert, she gave everyone a challenge. "If you want to serve Jesus, stand up." I was intimidated--most of the people around me were adults. I didn't want people to think that I was playing a game. I was as serious as a heart attack. I wanted to serve Him, to share what I had found with other people.
By this time I had become interested in participating in anything involving music at church. Some wonderful people started including me in their jam sessions. I had a blast! One day, one of these people asked me if I had ever written a song. I was shocked that he would even ask such a thing. No way could I write a song. That was something only famous people did. But yes, he assured me, I could write a song. At age 12 I had my first really basic music theory lesson. I'm afraid I didn't take it as seriously as he gave it. Of course, I knew about 1, 4, and 5 chords. But how does one do anything creative with those?
Well, eventually, I did do something creative with them. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Get the picture? Some of the songs I will probably never play for anyone, but some of them are now in revision. I wrote because I discovered that I could use music to put my faith into a form that could be shared. I've never told anyone this, but I gave a couple of very poor quality, home-made tapes to my classmates in the eighth grade. They gave me feedback, encouraged me. I could see that they grew in their own faith because of what I had shared, and my confidence soared. At some point, I even got up the nerve to share my own songs in church, to take off the Amy or Sandi face and put on the Sarah face.
In September, 1986, I began to feel that the Lord intended for me to use my music as a ministry. I continued to write and to sing in churches and at youth rallies locally, even going as far as to sing one of my songs at a high school function in front of some 1,000 people. I was sometimes a bit nervous, but stage fright was never a problem for me. I was at home, doing what God told me to do, telling my stories and singing my songs, making people laugh and making them cry.
Eventually I went to Anderson University, where my plan was to major in Christian ministries and minor in music business. To make a long story short, I got off the track and never finished that degree. In fact, I spent quite a few years wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life, feeling that obviously it wasn't going to involve music. If it had, I would have been somewhere by now. No, it doesn't work that way, and I know this now. But in a world where your peers are Mariah Carey and Crystal Lewis and they are successful before they are 20 years old, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that where you go is in God's hands and that His timing is never wrong, that he doesn't care if you are 20 or 40 as long as you do whatever you're doing for Him.
After some seven years of this aimless wandering, I feel that my call from Him has been reaffirmed. It had been about five years since I had written a song, and I wrote a couple last summer. I was frustrated, though, and feared that God had taken my gifts from me for lack of use. But the call of God is irrevocable, and I understand this now too. I prayed fervently that He would confirm it to me if this was His call on my life.
Two weeks ago, I was in Tennessee visiting a friend. Though she had never heard me sing, she arranged for me to sing at her church while I was there. I was actually stunned. I felt as if I was stumbling through some wide-open door in a place where I least expected to find an open door! I had been running into doors for a long time which were closed. Not only did I stumble through that open door, but I was also asked to sing in the midweek service at another church! Talk about stumbling through open doors! What had gotten into these people who knew nothing about me and didn't even have a demo?
What had gotten into them was this. God hears prayers, and God opens the doors in this life of mine. I cannot do any of this on my own. I called, and He answered. I committed myself to Him, and He proved faithful in leading me and putting me right where I needed to be at a specific time when I needed to be there. And He doesn't care about all the wasted years I spent wandering around looking for the doors. Those are years He will restore to me. All I have to do is trust Him! Getting back on the path He chose for me is not some formidable task that I have to accomplish on my own. I only have to say one simple word from deep within my soul: Jesus!
The experience in Tennessee was so very profound! I began to hear music in my soul again--so much music that I can't even keep track of the songs! It seems that at every turn there is another song waiting to burst forth. One of the things I've discovered about writing songs is that God truly does give me the songs. That's not some cliche statement which means I don't have to put forth any effort. It's a statement that means that when I'm listening for what He will give me, working out the kinks is no problem at all. When something is my passion and my passion comes from Him, it is no longer daunting, and there is never a lack of ideas or notes. My difficulty is never in writing, but it is in focusing on the One who has given me the ability and inspiration to write.
Never again do I wish to stray from this calling. Oh, I have other passions which are less strong, and I know that God will use me in those areas as well, but music is the one thing that has endured with such strength, and it is the one thing that I can use to share this Jesus who has been so faithful to me with people so openly. I am at a point where I want this more than anything else. I would give up everything else in my life to do this one thing. I'll stumble through every open door He leads me through, and those are the only doors I want to stumble through.