|Jennie Bishop, author of
The Princess and the Kiss
My husband and I are worship leaders—him by position and career, me by example—and thus have come to know the human ego intimately. The best musicians are always those who know how and when to “lay out.” They can step back and let someone else take the solo, or recognize that their particular instrument’s voicing isn’t adding to the song during certain measures.
It’s not always easy to take your hands off a guitar when you’re itching to play a screaming solo, but the results are more satisfying to the audience. All it takes is the willingness to recognize that serving on the worship team is a privilege, not a right. We are instruments of service, and not stars in the making.
I know that I struggle similarly with writing. There have been many times when I haven’t been willing to “lay out.” My identity has been too fiercely tangled with my story making. I published my first compilation on the school ditto machine in sixth grade. I wrote my first (bad) novel in high school. I signed my friends’ yearbooks “Great Author of the Future.”
When I’m not working on a new project, I tend to be anxious. My discipline is worry, and I have a General Anxiety Disorder and medication to prove it. A few years ago, God mercifully exposed my anxiety issues by allowing me into a chaotic, unpredictable life in Orlando. This year He has turned the tables to the extreme by gifting my husband with a wonderful position and our family with a small condo on the beach in Daytona.
You would think life here is idyllic. My writing desk looks right out the window onto the Atlantic. I can count the dolphins or pelicans as they make their way up and down the shoreline. The waves provide a constant, mesmerizing background of music, even worship.
But since October, I’ve barely sat at that desk.
God, in His desire to stretch and form me in yet another direction, made it clear upon my husband’s acceptance of this new position that I was to separate myself from writing for a time to simply be a mother and wife. My tenth grader was making a hard school transition, and my graduate moved home to work and prepare for college. My husband needed my support at home and in his position.
I am aware of the daily need to be willing to scrub floors or sing a solo at a moment’s notice. I concur with Brother Lawrence in the necessity of practicing the presence of God, in prayer, dish-doing and laundry-folding. But the long season of non-writing became difficult, especially with a finished manuscript on my desk, awaiting a home. I began to ask what all that work had been for. I wondered if I was simply being lazy or my rest was actually a gift of God. I slipped intermittently back into worry, even depression.
One day I discovered a blog from Anita when I was searching for information unpacking the “weaned child” passage in Psalm 131. How I longed to rest this way, satisfied in my Father’s lap, without the anxiety of analyzing every moment of my existence.
Anita’s “Working Restfully” blog spoke deeply to my heart as God assured me, again, that my writing Sabbath was good, that I did not need to push and shove my way into a publishing situation.
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About the same time, Randy asked me to lead a song, one of my favorites, in a coming worship service. I had agreed—until practice, when I tried out the key. I wanted to sing with passion, but instead was distracted by uncomfortable notes in my lower range. I waved the instrumentalists down.
“Um, I think Tiffany should sing these verses,” I suggested. I knew Tiffany had sung the song beautifully at another service when I had been absent.
“But this is your favorite song,” my husband reminded me.
“It is,” I agreed. “But just because it’s my favorite doesn’t mean I’m the best one to sing it. I’m going to lay out.”
Tiffany was delighted, and so was I—the results were so much better. I’ve removed a distraction that would have affected not only me, but possibly our whole congregation. Now the way is open for us all to freely worship.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. This is my quest: not to long for “star quality,” in singing, in writing, in speaking or in homemaking (is that possible?) … but to be fully content to “lay out,” to wait, to relax like a weaned child in my Father’s arms. There is the only place where any lasting satisfaction can really be found. There is the place of constant rest, as I find my identity fully safe and complete in Christ.
Jennie Bishop is the author of the best-selling children’s book, The Princess and the Kiss. She is also the founder of PurityWorks, a not-for-profit that provides resources for the development of good hearts in small children as preparation for them to embrace sexual purity as they grow.