When I started brainstorming this series, I knew I wanted to write about adventure. And since many of my own ideas about adventure stem from Tolkien's beautiful books, I asked myself: what are prominent features of Tolkien's epic? What adventure motifs does he use? One of the first things that came to mind is Tolkien's use of song. His characters are singing all the time. The hobbits sing road songs. The elves intone ethereal melodies. Music weaves its way through the hills and mountains and grassy plains, telling the tales of many peoples. Songs in Tolkien's world are fraught with history, melancholy, and deep, sheer beauty. Maybe I'm a little biased: I am, after all, a singer by trade. It's my deep joy and abiding love. I can never say enough about it. But I know that non-musicians have felt the power of music to express what words alone cannot. Everyone knows what it's like to seek a song, as if to say, Well, it's like this.
I have a dear, sweet friend named Janell who once told me that in operas, characters sing because they have no other way of expressing their emotions. The power of their feelings just runs so high that they have to sing about it. That instantly changed the entire way I look at opera, and it's slowly changing the way I sing, too.
That's why I think Tolkien writes so much song into his adventures: music expresses what we cannot. This makes me want to learn to be more vulnerable: so that I can express everything I want to express, say everything I want to say, lay my entire self out there as a performer and as a person.
For music is a vulnerable part of our souls. I get a little self-conscious whenever anyone glances through my musical choices. My iTunes library consists of a bunch of movie soundtracks, opera, the Mumford-and-Sons kind of folk music, and worship music (Somewhere, as I wrote that sentence, my brother Luke cringed at the disgrace of having a sister who doesn't listen to Drake). Something about music and our tastes thereof reveals a little part of who we are.
Maybe that's why people are self-conscious about singing in front of others. Anyone who sings knows that performing is a vulnerable practice. And a practice it is, for we must do it all the time. Unbidden, I recall the image of Sam Gamgee putting his hands behind his back and blushing to the tips of his ears after he sings. I see various characters in Tolkien's tales feeling abashed at the deep emotion that wells up within them as they experience music. Music is a vulnerable thing, and I will not deny that sometimes the thought of baring my soul in this way in front of others is absolutely terrifying to me.
But adventure is scary sometimes. Performing is part of my adventure. Yesterday I wrote about calling: my calling is to sing and perform. And if this is my calling, then it is my adventure by definition. Adventures are scary by definition. Ergo. You see all the points I'm making here.
So when I am afraid of vulnerability -- when I am afraid of being wrong -- what is the solution? What is the hope? The truth is that it is in vulnerability that we find healing. When we release ourselves to be true to the people we really are and sing what is really on our heart -- then, and only then, are we free and whole and healed. And when that happens, everyone else is healed a little bit through our art.
For that's what music does: it feels, it expresses, and then it heals.
Art is scary because vulnerability is scary. But this makes it all the more worth it in the end.
May I not be afraid, for God has made me bold and brave. May I face the fear of being rejected, and yet move forward, ignoring the fear voices, knowing that I am whole and complete in Jesus. And that is my true hope.
May I move toward others as my true self, never masking, always trusting God that even if I am rejected all round, He is enough for me.
May I not be afraid to sing what is in my heart, for it is a gift to me to share with you. And may I not be afraid to receive what others have to give.
May we not be afraid of vulnerability, of who we are, of what others think. May we revel always in Who Christ is and who He has made us to be.
May we share the music He has given us.