I'm no Josh Groban. Most of my life, I would never have dreamt of singing, playing music, or really doing anything with the liberal arts at all. I hated it. I hated all of it. I was always awkward. Sometimes I speak with a stutter, forget what I'm saying, forget what I'm thinking, forget what I'm doing. My mind can be a very foggy place sometimes. What isn't foggy to me? Formulas. Charts. Numbers. Stats. Scripts. Codes. Systems. I get that. I understand that. I can remember that. I can do that. I can express that. I've always struggled, though, to express me. I never understood why this has been the case, but it has been. When I was younger, it wasn't so much, but fewer things were fighting me at the time. When I entered elementary school, I was bullied. I can't say I haven't seen worse, but it happened nonetheless, and no degree of bullying is okay for anyone to experience. Then bad things started happening at home. I think it was an odd cocktail of the two, combined with my moderately soft-spoken by nature, that laid the foundation for a fortress I built to hide myself for fear of punishment which I didn't then understand I didn't fully deserve, though no one is really good in the end, but loved by a good God. Over time, I built numerous walls facing numerous battlefronts. By the time I reached high school, I had built the perfect defense for my heart (which I didn't understand was really a prison).

Then came my vocal coach. I have been quiet for most of my life, and I still am sometimes, but not all the time anymore, largely due to her. I've had teachers at school try to coerce me into singing solos and doing such things, but it never took until she came. In my tenth grade of high school -- that was 2006-2007 for me -- I was put on a list to audition for one of two male vocal soloist spots in the state competition that was hosted by the association of schools that mine happened to belong. I tried to fight it. I didn't want to do it. I was so freaking scared of getting up in front of people and screwing it all up. I tried to get out of it, but she, who was only the pianist to me at the time but now is my vocal coach and somewhat of a mentor, wouldn't have it. If I remember it right, she had more faith in me than I did, and said at least that it'd be over quickly. Little did I know that despite my quaking voice and choice of the over-sung song "Amazing Grace" by John Newton, I would get the spot. I didn't win at the competition, but that's not the point. The point is that it changed my life. No formula could have helped me to predict these events, nor the change to come.

I was so blindsided by the prospect of public performance that I didn't know what to do with myself. Sure, I'd dabbled with poetry and maybe a little composition, and I could fumble on keys, but to sing in front of an audience who had eyes, ears, and brains and opinions -- well, I felt like I was a hypocrite by donning the stage, picking up a microphone, and screaming my lungs out. I was the quietest soul you'd ever met at that point in my life, but putting myself in that uncomfortable, vulnerable position made me realize something: I LOVE THIS. :) It was a sweet release from all the pain I'd held inside. It had been brewing for fifteen years like a bitter tea, and I wasn't about to continue drinking it, so I gave myself over to music. I was called to it by a force within it, which I believe was the still, small voice of Jesus Christ. In coming to grip with that reality, I realized something -- I wasn't a hypocrite for donning the stage: I was a heretic, a heretic to my despair, ready to spread the heresy of hope.

From then and onward, I was a different person. I had been uprooted from where I was sewn: thorny, rocky soil, where crows came to feast, and planted in good earth by a river (see the parable of the sower; also see Psalm 1). I'm still growing though. I still struggle with sin like even the apostles did, but that's not really what I'm getting at. I changed -- a lot. I didn't know how, but I'm starting to see what's really happening. I let what other people think, what other people do, what other people say, have too much of an influence upon what I think, do, and say. I shouldn't do that. Why should I do that? What benefit is that to me or anyone else? Sure, I could appease the masses, keep quiet, and do nothing, but I have good things to offer. Good has been done to me, and good things have been given to me, which is the only means by which I have to do good to others, for others, and to give good things to them. Sure, I want other people to have as accurate perception of me as possible, but if they don't, and if I can't convince them after doing all I can, why should I let it change me and how I behave? Why should I live any differently toward myself, my Lord, or to them? Why should my level of love fluctuate to any degree? Why should I give up things that give me life and fire to satisfy the itching ears of the masses?

I'm no Josh Groban. I could list people who I know beyond the shadow of a doubt believe I shouldn't be involved in music. I also know a lot of people who support me in my pursuit of music. I'm thankful for both crowds for having opinions, and thankful that I know to which to listen, thankful that I know which one has the power to stop me (neither), and thankful that my acceptance has nothing to do with either of them, but this is not the point. My approval in all things comes through grace from the Son of God. May nothing else in my heart prosper.

I'm wasting an entire post to say this one thing in summation: not one single person in the whole of reality should be given the authority to stop the purest, truest love of another, and no person should be convinced to love himself so little (or so much) as to give that authority to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ, because if all the history and prophecy about Him is true (the eternal origin, the miraculous birth, the loving life, the sacrificial death, the inevitable resurrection, the given forgiveness, the impending return, and the eternal peace), then He is the one person in the whole of reality that we can trust with that authority because He is the only one who will never abuse that authority, and the only one who truly will ever accept us, and if He asks for us to step out of our comfort zone, step out on a limb, walk on water, let me inform you: He will not let you drown.