It is 825pm in Hollywood, the temperature might be close to the 90’s, and this light in my face does not help me to cool down. I’m focused on a Lead Piano+Synth that I created for this new arrangement of an old song. If I just opened my eyes, I would see that the environment is ready for one of the best nights these people have ever seen, but I can’t open my eyes.
Deep inside of me is happening a huge storm, and to be fair, my inner prayer is that we can get through this last chorus as soon as possible so I can go back to my shack and hide in shame and guilt for the next few weeks… “Here we go, last two bars and I am done”… but that was not exactly what God had in mind for me.
Is it not interesting how much we pray for something to change without realizing that the subject of our prayers could be exactly what God wants to use to teach us something?
I was Music Director in small and big churches from my 14 to 21 years. We’ve played every music style you may think, from small gatherings of 30 people to big gatherings of 7 thousand people. I could play keys, piano, guitars and even bass sometimes. And then, life happened. I had to move to another city, and then move again. I started my own company, sold all my gears and never played live again. Until, last year.
Last year I was invited to serve as the keyboard player in my church. This church is led by an amazing pastor, a man that inspires us all to get closer to Jesus. Their worship team is getting more and more on the spotlight, with beautiful lyrics that talk about the Kingdom, their songs are being played all across the universe (pun intended). And their message is as close as it can be of the Heaven and Earth reuniting. There is a lot of bible and Christ there.
Now, don’t take me wrong when I say I’ve been away from the stage for 12+ years. The Stage and Christ are not the same things for me. One is everything I am, the other is one of the many places where I serve. The stage is not where my Christian life happens. I’ve been a Christian since I was a little kid, and it has never changed. A church stage is an extension of my personal Christian life, not what my life is. I have to perform everyday as husband, employee, boss, entrepreneur, friend, son… that is where the real spotlight is.
So here I am, a 30+ years old Nerd, with my musician talents rusted, with no previous knowledge about this “synth” world, invited to be part of this movement of Jesus that is happening in Hollywood. Everything is new: Click? Never heard of that. MainStage? Mainwhat!? Tracks? Dude, where I come from the worship leader would say “Let’s do it again”, and that would be our “cue” :P
Everything has been a challenge since then. I’ve never before heard the “name” of the keys in English. F Sharp. I had never played using numbers. “Let’s go to the one, five, six four”… So, in real time I had to translate that from English to Portuguese, and then translate it from Numbers to Chords… That is a lot of translation to be made in such a short amount of time. I could not make it if the team had not been so friendly. Everyone has helped me and embraced me as part of their team. Most of the folks have been doing music for life for a very long time, and I was welcomed as a fellow musician. I thankful for that. But their friendship and my thankfulness do not make me a perfect musician right off the bat. So, I make mistakes.
Now, as a Nerd and Software Engineer, mistakes are not something that I deal well with. I can accept other peoples mistake very easily, we can even laugh together, but when I do something wrong, it hits hard. So, when I am playing main keys, and then I lose track of the beat, or I struggle to memorize new songs, it makes me feeling crap, so now, we can move back to that night in Hollywood.
It is 815pm and we’ve just finished an amazing song. I can feel that the environment is ready for what is coming, and I know the setlist - I know it will be one bomb after another! I’m excited! Sweating, and ready. I have played this next song 500 times this week, and it all starts with the Piano. So, let me make sure I look at my synth, that I have the right patch selected. We finish in F and then I need to go to D sharp and hold still until the click starts - deep breath - The MD says to us all “make noise” - we just finished the song, I hold the F - “keep making noise”, he says again, so I “open” the pad in order to make it brighter, and I think “I need to remember to make it darker before the beginning of the next song or it will sound bad” - while I am thinking it, the click for the next song started. I was so involved in the environment, that I did not see it starting. I just heard the “3 and 4” coming from the track and I rushed! I start it BEFORE the track!
Now here we are, a new song, with important lyrics, hundreds of people ready to listen to something that can shake their life and I ruined it all! The lead vocal starts singing, and I know we are off the track. I am not exactly sure what to play, hands shaking, “do I play more Piano or should I open the pad and let it “hold” the environment?” - And in the midst of that, it is me and the vocal, and I am doing it all wrong. Poor Lead Vocal has to take it all alone. (I’ve already rewatched the recording, and it was not close to that bad, but in my mind, in real time, it was completely horrible and everyone had just left the building because they could not handle Jesus’ message to be delivered by such a crappy pianist).
We survive the song, we play the next one, but I am feeling an impostor. That is it. Now everyone knows I am terrible, I always knew it would come to light how bad I am. And I destroyed a Sunday service - Guilty!
It was 825pm in Hollywood, the temperature might be close to the 90’s, and this light in my face is not helping me to cool down. Deep inside of me is happening a huge storm, and to be fair, my inner prayer is that we can get through this last chorus as soon as possible so I can go back to my shack and hide in shame and guilt for the next few weeks… “Here we go, last two bars and I am done”… but that was not exactly what God had in mind for me… before the end of the song the MD tells me - “Fellipe, we need you to stay playing - through - the - whole - message” - The pastor wants your help to “build the environment”. So, just feel it, and play some nice progressions based on the feeling.
Feeling?! My Feeling is a tense minor chord, I can just play it and hold for hours. =(
And this is not even the biggest of the storms that are happening in my life. That same afternoon me and my wife had to face an incredible challenge. Something that has been around us for years. Usually, when I am in a place where I have no words, I go to my room and I cry out through my piano. So that is what I did that afternoon, again and again. I spent 30 minutes quiet, but my soul was crying through my hands “Jesus! Jesus! You make the Darkness Tremble - Jesus! Jesus! You silence fear”.
That is what I was doing. As soon as the pastor started the message, I started playing the chords of Tremble. Very slow, holding on the verses… and then he starts saying: “I’d talk about my book today, but I believe God has something different. Let’s talk about David and Goliath. Let’s talk about I am a son of God, and I can face all my giants. Let’s talk about going to the battle even if you are not the fittest or the biggest one. Let’s talk about using some stones to kill a giant while all the people who have swords are hiding.
That is when I take out my glasses, my tears were making it hard to see the piano. I don’t know what is happening anymore. The dude is preaching my prayer, and every time he says “God will destroy your giants, he will destroy your fears”, I sincerely feel and believe on it, and my hands go to the high octaves of the piano to play “Jesus! Jesus! You silence fear”, people get on their feet, everyone is clapping, shouting to God, I am crying, we completely lost control of what is happening. I don’t even know where I am. I am sure I am not able of doing what I am doing, but we are in the midst of a Pentecostal night and trust me, I’ve never seen it happening here. This is out of this world. I am happy, I am in peace, I am serving.
God can and will use whoever is willing and with an open heart, to serve him. We know limits, he does not. When nothing to offer, we fall short, he created the universe from nothing. I’m glad to be a part of this band of imperfect brothers. Peter was not a communicator, David was not a warrior, Joseph was not a leader, Moses, Jacob, the young Timothy, etc. the Bible is full of imperfect people being used by God to change the world.
At the end of the service, I had people telling me how great it was. A great Worship Leader from another church came to ask me how I built the environment, what was my gear, what I’d use to play and how great everything was sounding. The fellows from my band told me that I killed it, That I was the MVP… Even the pastor himself said I made it easier for him and made him sound even better and his message to go further.
Now, deep down I knew that I could not take any of those compliments to myself. It was him through me. Through my imperfections. Through my shame and my failure. Through my limitations.
And if I could do it, so can you. I was asking God to please let me go back home because I was a shame, I was guilty of destroying everything he had planned, but I did not know he had other plans.
Sometimes God will put a Goliath in your life, for you to find the David within you.