I climbed onto the bus after Wednesday night’s rehearsal, absolutely exhausted. Maybe Tchaikovsky drained me, or perhaps it was just the long day that started with me leaving my house at 7:00 a.m. and not returning until close to midnight. My body and mind are accustomed to this schedule. The day’s culmination with a rehearsal or concert often invigorates me. Chatting and laughter are more common on the bus ride back to Kansas City after rehearsal than to St. Joseph at 5:30 in the evening. Musicians appreciate post-music frivolity, that’s for sure.
This time, however, as the rest of the bus riders loudly rejoiced in the night, I slumped down in my seat and pulled out my iPod. I was silently whining to myself, yearning for just a moment of that silence from that Quaker Meeting. My face and arms were warm, like sunburn, and several people had already commented that I looked “flushed.” If I looked in a mirror, I know I would have seen my neck and chest turning red. Allergic reactions and stress reactions are one in the same for me. I considered using my EpiPen, but thought better of it. Stabbing myself in the leg with adrenaline seemed unlikely to make me feel better.
I waited until the lights turned off and the bus started moving before I allowed a few tears to fall. At that point, I started noticing the numbness in my legs and arms, the tremor in my hands and a nausea that was spreading from my stomach throughout the rest of my body. The feeling of defeat has always scared me, especially when it happens at obscure times. There was no life-changing event or epic fail; no loss of competition, life or love. I just know that if someone had asked me, “Megan, how are you feeling?” I would have had a fabulous word bank of adjectives with which to reply: sad, lonely, hurt, angry, fat, tired, sick, crazy, defeated, etc…a list so long, I should have made a word search entitled “Adjectives to Describe Megan when she is Cranky.” Oh, cranky. That’s another good one.
This would have been a convenient time for Jesus to arrive. The door was wide open. If a missionary had approached me, I probably would have converted instantly. But missionaries usually come at when you’re eating dinner or watching a movie, so I just scrolled through my iPod for signs of Christ. God? The Holy Spirit, for goodness sake? I landed on Kristin Chenoweth’s rendition of “Just as I Am.” Not her best work, but even then, still better than everyone else.
The arrangement was simple, quiet and comforting. Often used as an altar call in conservative churches, I had heard many dechurched lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered speakers refer to this song thoughtlessly as a representation of discomfort and unwelcome as non-LGBTs walked down the aisles. When I first read the lyrics, sometime in college, I thought just the opposite. “This should be the LGBT Christian Anthem,” I said to my pastor. “I mean, seriously, ‘Just as I Am’? It practically screams, ‘God made me this way!’” It isn’t always the words, though, but the intention that becomes the common belief. Whereas the words suggested an environment of complete and utter acceptance, they were utilized to separate and judge. How did a perfectly good hymn get twisted up in that mess?
Closing my eyes and listening to Kristin’s every word was really an effort to let Jesus back into my heart. I thought if I could believe the words at my lowest moment, I could believe in Him again. “If you really want me Just as I Am,” I prayed in my head, “then here I am.”
It wasn’t that life had dealt me a bad hand. My life was and still is full of opportunity, positive relationships and many achievements. I just didn’t think I deserved that life at that time. Someone else could step into my place and make the most of my credentials to create more change, a better future and a great life. The only saving grace, the only hope, was that I could give my life back to Jesus. I could love God with all my heart and soul and mind. And then maybe my good luck could be put to good use. I know it’s not possible to just give all of my ‘awesome’ to someone else and shrivel up into despair. I needed a chance to use my awesome for, well, awesomeness. Who better to do that than an Awesome God (now there’s a song I don’t like)?
Most of the time, my rants end in a sensible solution or a provocative conclusion; sometimes, a rhetorical question or a caddy summation. This time, no. This time, I can only write that after internalizing “Just as I Am,” I felt a little bit better. Not get-down-on-my-knees-and-praise-the-Lord better, but there was a slight improvement in my attitude the next day. By Friday, I had regained at least my musical confidence and was back playing Tchaikovsky without fear or anxiety. I laughed more, concentrated harder and whined less. There were a few ups and downs every hour or two and I’m not saved, nor healed nor convinced. But we’re getting somewhere. It’s about freaking time.