I'm a perfectionist, but not a very good one.

I didn't know it until I signed up to play in a worship band. I'd been in bands before. I knew the drill—get the sheet music, take it home and practice until it was perfect. But this band leader was different. His bluegrass background meant he thought it was perfectly reasonable to hand a flute player a chord chart and say, "Just play what you feel."

For years in orchestra I'd been told, "Stop tapping your toes!" Feeling wasn't even mentioned.

So I took home those chord charts and carefully made notes of every run and trill so that my "improvisations" would be seamless. But little by little I found myself straying from the notes. The music started coming from a new place until one Sunday morning I found myself, gazing at the rafters and playing with all my heart. Frantically I searched for my place on the page, wondering how long I'd been floating away from the safety of the precious notes on my music stand. Fear flashed through me as I realized I had no idea what note was next. But I began to learn a totally new kind of music. Rather than simply being about accurately performing music written by someone else, I was learning how to express something from inside me.

Controlling every note made my performances consistently adequate. Improvising meant risking catastrophe for the sake of inspiration.

Free style

I soon found that this new freedom trickled into other areas of my life. I hadn't made art in years because my detailed, careful work was never good enough. In the past, the blank page taunted me.

Will it be good? If not, why bother even starting?

And so, whenever the time came to make art, I had fearfully taken a pencil with a fine point (paint was much too messy) and made something small and afraid. And somehow both it and I felt less for its creation.

But now, with my newfound risky flute skills, I set aside my pointed pencils, picked up a fat house-painting brush, and slapped paint all over a canvas. Not only did my heart learn to paint, my paintings were better than ever before.

Yet as strong as it was for my growth as an artist, it almost stopped me from following God's call into ministry. Have you ever seen an artist as lead pastor? Neither had I. When I was called to step into the lead pastor role, my fear of failure and my lack of role models sent me running back to the security of perfection and control. The blank canvas of the empty space called "Mandy's Way of Being Lead Pastor" mocked me with the old question:

"Will it be good? If not, why bother even starting?"

And then that question multiplied:

Will you, as a soft-spoken artist, be able to gain respect in important meetings?
Will you be able to lead with authority (and without tears)?
Will you, as someone who loves emotion and color, be able to deal with budgets?
Will you, as a dreamer, be able to make quick decisions?
Will you, as a feeler, be able to handle conflict?

If not, why bother even starting?

So I almost didn't start. I almost let those questions cripple me. But God was kind enough to remind me of the lessons I'd already learned:

Don't count beats and be ruled by tiny black dots on five little lines. Set aside the hard copy. Feel the beat in your chest and listen to how your heart resonates and soon you'll be wrapped in joy. Don't wonder if it could hang in the Louvre. Don't even try to imagine what this will be when it's done because by then both you and it will be something new. Just begin where you are.

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Creativity  |  Teaching  |  Teamwork  |  Vision
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