It’s Friday today, just two more days to Sunday. My phlegmatic nature has not yet begun to panic for Sunday. I just hope I can remember to breathe when the stage fright hits then…
But as always, my Daddy knows how to encourage His nervous little girl.
I set my Facebook so I would receive a text message/sms when someone sends me a private message. And I got one from a totally unexpected person.
I first heard Michele Wagner’s songs in 1989. I found her FB page, subscribed as a fan, and was probably one of the first to browse through her personal website, http://www.michelewagnermusic.com/ (I was online when her post showed up in my news feed). And I was not disappointed: she had some song samples in the Music page, and one of them was the first song I heard from her. I went back to her FB post and said thank you, and mentioned that the song still makes me cry whenever I sing along.
Then two days ago, I got a text message. A Facebook private message from Michele Wagner. Like, the Michele Wagner, Lord? I went online to confirm, and it was her! And she was graciously saying thank you for the comment, then asked why the song made me cry, encouraging me with Psalm 139. I asked her permission to share my reply here – but first, here’s the song:
Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about people who walk into a church, hear a sermon, then turn to their companions and say “Have you been talking to the pastor about me?!” The words of “You’re Beautiful” could have been written from reading my journals, not just from that time – 1989, right? – but even now. It was like having my soul laid bare. The verses were – are still ME. Specially this part of the first verse:
“You made good first impressions,
but their big expectations
brought fear along the way.
So you hide your dreams,
you cover your scars,
you’re afraid someone might know you.”
I grew up being told I was ugly because of my skin: I have hypersensitive skin and skin asthma, and when I was a child, they looked like scabies, so people were also wary about making contact with me. And to try to stop me from scratching, I would always be told how much uglier I was making myself look – all this before I even started school.
But I was a smart kid, and I guess that was how I decided to make up for being ugly: by being brainy. But somehow, all the high grades were never high enough, or because I was smarter than my brother, I was expected to behave better…
And making good first impressions: somehow I really do seem to make good first impressions – when they can see past the ugliness (please add misaligned teeth to the mix by this time). Becoming a Christian somehow added to the big expectations I now had to meet. And with religious requirements on top of social and academic expectations – I crashed.
And it was during that crash that the Lord broke through: “I’m just here.” As I submitted to how He was rebuilding my life, I was horrified to see how in spite of having come to call Him Lord, I was still basically calling the shots in my own life. It was a painful but ultimately liberating struggle to be “deconstructed.” I became what the world calls a failure, a loser: dropped out of college twice, volunteered in ministries where I would be overworked and hardly paid…settling for staying home and being housekeeper to aging parents instead of looking for a high-paying job, which, with my ability to make good first impressions I could probably have done.
It was in one of those overworked-hardly-paid-ministry-volunteer jobs that I heard “You’re Beautiful”. I was frozen in my seat as I heard the first verse unfolding – maybe my life was flashing before my eyes, it was such an accurate summary. Then you declared it:
“But spiritual freedom
comes from believing
you’re loved as you are.”
Jesus loves me. ME! As I am.
Of course, it is not an easy freedom to maintain, but the Lord has been faithful to renew the reminder in attention-getting ways. My husband would tell me: “When it comes to you, only two opinions matter: God’s, and mine.” Lately we’ve been hearing preachers like Joseph Prince, Tim Keller, Don Carson, and our own pastors in our church, New Life Christian Center, whom the Lord is using to drill into my heart: “I. LOVE. YOU.”
I’m 44 now, and He’s dealing with the skin problems, misaligned teeth (that eventually led to a dislocated jaw that led to backaches and a posture problem) and excess weight that have been making me feel physically unattractive – at least, unattractive enough to run from what He seems to have been calling me to do all these years:
Singing. Solo. And not in a safe church setting, or the shower.
So after singing “You’re Beautiful” to myself, I follow it up with your other precious song, “Free to Fail.”
And here’s the kicker: we – my husband is an awesome pianist – have been invited to perform for a 15-minute slot at the anniversary celebration of Gospel Jam Manila on Sunday. It’s not a big gathering, but we do meet in a restaurant/bar.
And if I may be so bold: would you allow me to sing these two songs? I downloaded the chord chart of You’re Beautiful which you gave away free from your site. I’m going to have to figure out the chords of Free to Fail from memory, but that’s a challenge I think I’m ready to meet at this time.
I thank the Lord for your songs. Thank you so much for sharing them, and for proving that we really aren’t alone in our struggles, and that the comfort God has given us He leads us to comfort others with. It’s the only explanation I can think of for the powerful impact your songs have had on my life – the struggles must have been real to you as well, even if they were probably not exactly like mine. Thank you for singing about them.
God bless you EVEN MORE GREATLY than you could ever imagine!!
She replied to this with the offer to give me the chords for Free to Fail, but it would be in about a week. WOW! Although I answered that we’ve been out of musician-mode for so long, we could use the challenge of figuring out the chords too. ^_^
Thank You, Jesus, for this unexpected encouragement: in answering Michele Wagner’s question, I got to see again how You have been working in my life. And I am amazed again by how much You love me!
And thank you, Ms. Michele Wagner-Jacobsen, for taking the time to respond personally to a fan. I am truly blessed.