Whatever it takes to stop you…will.

When Zach and I set out to play at the coffee house across from Texas Tech–we had no idea what we were doing.  We had no idea what the context was…nor what the future held. We only knew that we had to play at the little shin dig on the corner. We had to start with the $5 in our pocket.  Just about literally.

We had Friday nights from 8-10.

It was just a few times in, right when we were starting to feel our groove, that something very interesting began to happen.

We took a break around 9 every night.  And on a particular night, we had maybe 4 or 5 tables listening to us. When we took a break, they all left. We took our 10 minute break, and it was time to step up to play. To an empty room.

Now, I don’t know if this translates to someone without experience in this area, but it would be like actors getting on stage to perform (not practice) to an empty room.  An empty coffee house at 9pm doesn’t always fill back up.  They closed at 10.

It was pretty obvious to me–we just needed to quit.  Everything in me was in pack-it-up-mode.  But there was a twinge of frustration in me.  Why would I drag my butt all the way here on a Friday night, set everything up, just to play for a few people and then quit when they quit.  That sucked!  It would mean responding to a moving target….and…. that just felt like taking all my focused energy and spilling it on the ground where a cup may or may not be there.  I can’t recall exactly all that went into the thoughts in my heart at that moment, but it rose up out of my spirit that I was not here for my sake, but for people’s sake. And I wasn’t going to quit until the time was up.

My flesh was screaming, “If one of your friends walks in here and sees you playing to nobody, you will be humiliated!”  True statement. “If ANYONE were to walk in here and see you playing to nobody, they’d be like, ‘oh yeah, YOU’RE important! RIIIIIGHT!’ And come to think of it, the people working here will be laughing and snickering at you.  True. True. All True.

But I knew.  I was not here to make my name great. I was not here for my sake, my name’s sake, my own purposes.  I was here because singing about light in darkness is worth being humiliated for. I was not there because people had invited me or because the crowd had demanded it or chanted my name. (Hear it: “joni! joni!’) I was NOT going to be tempted into the sad state of, “I guess I’ll go home, because nobody cares about ME!’

I  ducked my head and pleaded with myself, ‘You are going to get up there right now and strum that guitar in Jesus’ name.’ And it took all I had not to pack it up. I think I may have muttered something to Zach like, “I’m not going home until 10. That’s what I came to do, and I’m doing it.”  Or maybe I whispered something spiritual.

Either way, we quietly got on our stools. I looked up at the people behind the counter who were certainly not noticing or caring about us. I put my head down as I turned up the volume on the guitar just saying to myself, “Just strum the guitar, Joni. Just make yourself strum this guitar.”  To the empty room.  Feel me here. It was terrible.

What followed was something that happened three consecutive Friday nights in a row right after this.  With my head down playing the introduction, I did not notice that both doors had let in a room full of people at once–none of whom missed even my first sung word.  They all swooped in all at once, all sat down, and listened.

I only told Zach after the night ended, “Did you notice that?” He hadn’t noticed.  “Hmmm” he said in his classic understated emotions.

When it happend again the next Friday night when the SAME THING happened, he did notice.

And by the third Friday night in a row, we knew this was a thing.

God’s voice spoke clearly into my heart. “You have GOT to be able to rise up and stand on a stage regardless of WHAT others think, regardless of who is there or not there.  I put you there, and that is enough.”

If a dwindling audience is all it takes to stop me, then it will.  And I will stop and not fulfill my purpose which has nothing to do with the size of my audience or my popularity.

We went on to have memories I will never forget. A guy who came in, sat very near and left in tears, unable to speak when I tried to speak to him; he was very troubled, and he was very touched.  A girl from out of town who felt led to come to the coffee house, heard me sing, and felt that’s why God had sent her.

If what you’re doing is because someone else said so, then the minute they stop saying, you’ll stop. Or because some else noticed, then the minute they stop noticing, you’ll stop. If it’s because someone else cares, then the minute they stop caring, you’ll stop.

When you set out to do something believing it’s what you were made to do; when you’re taking your place in humanity; when you cross the bridge of knowing that stopping will never be an option, that you must do it because you are compelled by the inner-man which testifies that this was why you were created–you become a dangerous force.
And if what you believe and carry is true, then you are truly light in darkness.

I’d say that was a molehill where a ministry was starting to be made.

To be honest, I need to be reminded of these things. I am not sure how I forgot, but I did. So I am passing this on to myself as much as I am to you.

Our ministries are born in the molehills in front of us.

This month we have 2 gigs. We haven’t played out since long before Ivy was born. She is 8 months old.

I guarantee you, this is what I’ll be thinking! 🙂

Read other {Ministry out of Molehills} posts.

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