I had never felt more exposed.
As I stood up from the piano it was as though all my coverings- physical, emotional, artistic, spiritual- had dropped to the floor. Every part of me felt bare and examined to the smallest detail.
I thought it would be a good feeling, but it wasn’t really. I was uncomfortable and suddenly shockingly shy. With everything else exposed I threw my hands over my face in an impulsive attempt to hide something- anything. The tears drew watery routes past the life-lines in my hands and dripped off my chin.
I’d always thought I was a transparent person. I thought I held nothing back- opened up at a moments notice, even too much- too trustingly at times. I thought I was an open book. But apparently there was one chapter I’d never revealed. One chapter I’d hidden in the binding of the book where no one would see it existed unless they pulled out a knife and cut open the cover. Somehow in this moment, I’d cut it open myself.
This was youth camp, and I was surrounded by my favorite people. From leaders to youth, these are the people that have witnessed my life for the last two years. And here and now I’d finally decided to reveal one of my original songs. I thought it was no big deal. It’s not that I don’t want to perform it, or am afraid to, I told myself when thinking about how long it had taken, it’s just that it hasn’t fit into the program yet. Right. The way that I felt after it was over told me differently.
When I sat down I was calm. Eager even. “I was going to apologize to you all, for how simplistic my piano playing is. But I’m not going to. This is me in transition. We never like people to see us in transition. But if we never go through the transition period we’ll never reach success. We’ll never live our dreams.”
And I began.
Even as the first notes came out of my throat I was dissatisfied. How is it you can practice something a thousand times and it sounds perfect, then as soon as you get in front of people your voice is like a stray bull you can’t get your lasso around!
I pushed through anyway. This song was a serenade to my Jesus. If my voice didn’t sound perfect, the least I could do was keep my heart in the right place. If it wasn’t a perfect performance, at least it could remain a display of adoration and worship. Surprisingly, I didn’t make any mistakes on the piano…until the last chord. Epic fail. But when my trembling fingers finally found the right chord, the crowd erupted, and that’s when it happened.
Every nook and cranny of my soul exposed for human eyes to scour and observe and accept or judge as they pleased. The last chapter of my artistry ripped out of the book cover and floating out in the air where people could take a page and treasure it, or take a page and burn it. I threw my hands over my face and rushed to a shadowy corner where I could focus on getting air inside and outside my lungs. I can’t even remember the sound of the clapping- though I’m sure it was there. All I remember was the all-consuming awareness of my soul’s nakedness. It enveloped me- and smothered me.
I couldn’t tell.
This feeling was so powerful and foreign that words and thoughts were drowned inside it, even as I was.
Looking back now, I think it was both. And all of it. It was the realest side of me finally stepping out of the shadows and into a blinding light. And just like skin that has only ever known shadows, the light felt searing, wonderful, confusing, unfamiliar and yet jarringly familiar at the same time. Like I was discovering my truest self at the same time everyone else was. Another uncomfortable feeling. Because who wants to admit they didn’t really know their own soul? Who walks into an introduction and discovers their name at the same time as the other person?
It’s MY name!
I should know who I am!
But I didn’t. Not until that moment. Until the artistry that God has written into my words, and the melodies He’s sung into my ears, and the romance He’s painted on my heart came flowing out into the open air and surprised everyone watching- even myself.
Not until the light.
Until the daylight hit the real Jewel and I was able to see- with everyone else- the nuances He’d woven into me that simply couldn’t be seen when cloaked in shadows. When hidden in darkness. When tucked away in a bedroom…playing songs to for my own ears; writing words for my own eyes.
And even now, I don’t know whether I want to run from that feeling and never feel it again…or step into the light again, and let the sun unfold the truest parts of me more and more. Even the parts that are crumpled and depleted and inadequate.
But somehow whether I like it or not, I know I can never go back. The bud, once it’s started to bloom, can never shrink back into its tight enclosure. The stalk can never sink back into the ground. The petals, once exposed, can only continue to open and show more of their vibrancy….release more of their scent.
My only comfort is that no human hand opens a rose bud. And no human hand can open my soul. So if this bud has opened, it’s by the hand of my Designer, and it’s the time that He has ordained.
So if He has chosen to reveal this rose…I have no option but to unfold.
Release this pent-up artistry.
And let my colors explode.