Let me tell you about switching off survival mode.
We went to a new church on Sunday. It was bigger than any church I’d been to in awhile. There were more chairs, people packed closely in together in the large auditorium, and the music was louder; loud like a concert, where the air is thick with sound, surrounding you on all sides. Not in a pressuring way, though – in a way that offered an invitation instead, to sing along at a normal level, unheard, swallowed by a wall of sound.
Or, if you’re me, to sing as loud as humanly possible. Hitting notes I don’t normally attempt, testing out harmonies, slipping seamlessly in and out of a rush of other voices. I’d missed singing this way, I’d missed the sense of uninhibited abandon and unobserved, unconscious joy that filled my soul up when I emptied my lungs.
I’d missed singing with my whole voice.
I think there are a lot of reasons we forget to use our whole voice, but my most common is that I slip into survival mode. Every time something goes wrong, or I believe I’ve done something wrong, I allow that facet of my life and circumstances tremendously more weight than I do the pieces of my life that are bright and beautiful. I throw my mind on a switch that says I only have the capacity to survive until the next season – not to learn, not to grow, not to rest, and certainly not to spend all of my energy in one spot. Not to use my whole voice, whether it’s in song, writing, my relationships, or my communication with God.
Survival mode seasons are real – but in all reality, they should last weeks or months, while sometimes I feel like I’ve been stuck on that switch for all of my postsecondary education. That’s six years. That doesn’t mean I’ve never learned, grown or rested in those circumstances. I’ve just allowed looking forward to the next bend in the road to take up the focus I could have leveraged in ways that yielded more for me. And in doing so, I stopped using my whole voice, started saving it for particular moments of desperate need when really, what I needed was a departure from perceiving everything through a lens of desperation.
It was during this song at church on Sunday that I heard God whisper the question to my heart – “When was the last time you used your whole voice?”
I don’t know the answer, to be honest. But I do know what the question is for.
I’ve finished graduate school, gotten married, and moved back to my favorite city. I’m about to start teaching. And I’m committed to doing none of it in survival mode.
To doing it all arms high and heart abandoned. To assume the blessing, not the burden, as often as possible. To see God’s best for me instead of the world’s worst.
To sing with my whole voice.