by Chris Allen
It always brings tears to my eyes when I watch awards shows. Seeing the nominee who has no idea or thinks that he/she will hear their named called. Then it happens. They hear their name, there’s the sheer look of amazement, the shock on their face, their hands covering their mouth as it drops open. They begin looking around in utter disbelief, as if to get another’s approval, asking with their eyes, “Who me…Did you know?” The tears, the hugs, the slow walk to the stage, while trying to gather their thoughts and emotions together, because they have no speech prepared. “What will I say? Who I will thank? I hope I don’t forget anyone or make a fool of myself.” January 10, 2009 was like that for me. Let me explain.
Two weeks earlier, my church’s Minister of Music, Tangie Rowe, announced that the choir would host its first annual CCA Awards, CCA standing for Commitment, Consistency and Accountability. Tangie is a medium height, brown-skinned woman who is an awesomely anointed musician and choir director. As she explained what the event was about, Tangie indicated she wanted to recognize individual choir members and show her appreciation to the choir as a whole, for their service to God and the music ministry. The top awards would go to the man and woman who had been the most committed, consistent and accountable. My stomach had butterflies and my heart sank, as I thought, and chuckled to myself, “Well I know I won’t be getting anything. I might as well just show up, get something to eat, and be happy for the folks that win.”
As I pulled up to the church’s fellowship hall, I thought, “Maybe…just maybe . . . I have always been committed, consistent and accountable.” Then I thought, “Snap out of it. It’s not going to happen.” I had recently come back to the choir. I had left for various reasons over the years: twice for being pregnant. The last reason was much different. I had thought I had removed myself, from the choir, but actually God had removed me. We had five choir directors before Tangie came, and some choir members over the years had taken ownership of something that did not belong to them, which was God’s ministry. But at the time I did not recognize that I was one of them.
As I entered the building, I took a deep breath, put on my happy church face–the one we all have when we really don’t want anyone to know what’s going on in the inside. I could smell the aroma of pasta and garlic bread. I could hear the chatter, laughter, and excitement blaring as I walked down the long hall to the main room. As I crossed the threshold, with a smile, “Wow! She really put a lot into this.” I said to myself, as I panned the room. It was beautiful. The tables were decorated with white plastic coverings and centerpieces, and each table had a place setting in front of a chair. The front of the room was set with microphones, keyboards, and a drum set for the praise and worship group that was going to minister to us in song. As I worked the room, saying my hellos, kissing, and hugging folks, I still could not shake this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t quite understand why I was feeling this way. I had already prayed and resolved within myself that I could be happy for whoever won and that my service to God didn’t depend on accolades from other people.
I found a seat and without sitting down, grabbed a plate, and went to get some of the pasta dish that I had smelled the moment I entered the building. After I got my food, I made my way back to my table. I sat not far from other people, but kind of by myself. As I sat waiting for the event to begin, I remembered being in this very room April 11, 2008, at the Women’s Ministry fellowship, apologizing to Tangie and asking for her forgiveness for not loving her past her faults, for gossiping, and slandering her name to others in the church. You see, at the time, I did not realize that God was using her issues to show me my issues.
The food was good. I had definitely brought my appetite as I went up for seconds, greeting others who had arrived after me. I noticed Minster Angie Williams. “Hey Angie, what’s going on?” I said as I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek. . Minister Angie is a brown-skinned, fly-dressing anointed woman who can preach her tail off. She is also my accountability partner. “How did last night go?” she asked.
“Girrrl, I’m still in awe of what God did through me”, I said. “He blessed. God did just what He said He was going to do.” Because I had been obedient to God in forgiving Tangie and doing it publicly, He had revealed that He was also calling me into the ministry back on August 8, 2008. He further confirmed that calling the night before the awards, when I taught the women on “Obedience”. How ironic, but that’s how God does things sometimes.
The program began as Jackie Eudell, the Mistress of Ceremony for the evening, called us to order. Jackie is a beautiful, brown-skinned woman, with a smile that lights up a room. She greeted and reminded us of the reason for the event. She then introduced Carolyn Bowden and called her to the podium to give the occasion and the history of the choir. Carolyn is a light skinned older woman, in her sixties who doesn’t look a day over fifty. She has a way of telling a story, one that keeps you engaged and hanging on to her every word.
My mind, however, was still thinking on how God had taught me how to love his people the way He does. He had taught me to love people past their faults. He had shown me how I had equated the things that were happening between Tangie and me, thinking that she was standing in the way of what God had declared in my life. But how was Tangie to know? I never shared it with her. How was she to know that I couldn’t sing my way out of a paper bag? How was she to know that it was God who told me to join the choir and I was just fool enough to step out on faith and believe Him? How was she to know that God had given me a vision, a dream, and called me to be a worship leader? How could I think that she, not God, had control over my destiny? How was I to know that He was using her to answer my prayers to teach me to love His women? How was I to know that when God declares the end from the beginning, there is a middle and I was smack dab in the middle of it? How was I to know He was showing me things in me that I didn’t know were there? God was breaking me and molding me for His use. All the while I was asking God, “Who me? I didn’t know that was there.” and asking Him, “But God, how am I going to be a worship leader and I’m not even in the choir?” And God was saying to me, “It has to be about Me. I’m teaching you to worship Me in spirit and in truth, not just in how well you sing, but worshipping Me from your heart in song. I’m working it out for your good and My glory. Stop chasing after what only I can give you.”
Jackie then called Tangie to the podium. It was now time for the awards to be given. My heart was in my stomach, pretty much where it had been all evening and now full of food to boot. Tangie said a few words of thanks and of how this evening came to be. “This first award is for the person who comes every first Sunday to sing with us from another church, and I want to recognize her for her faithfulness.” She called “Kathy Williams.” We all stood and applauded as Kathy made her way to the front to receive her trophy. I thought, “Yeah, she deserves that. She has been coming for awhile. I had forgotten she wasn’t a member here” as I continued clapping for her. Well, I made it through that one. I’m happy for her. Thank you Lord!
Tangie said, “Next I want to recognize this person for always being on point, sending out the music, and choir information.” We all knew who she was talking about, before her named rolled off her tongue. “Regina Gray.”
“Yeah!” I said out loud, as I stood up to clap for her. She is good at what she does. “You go girl,” I yelled out to her. As we settled down, Tangie, with a big smile on her face, said “The next person I want to recognize the man who will receive the CCA Award. This person comes out and sings every Sunday, even though he has been the only man for years. But he still comes out and deals with us ladies anyway.” We all laughed. Everyone knew it was Rick Walker. As he made his way to the front, we all stood, clapped and chanted his name. “Wow! God this is not hard at all. I can do this,” I thought with a big smile on my face. We sat down. Tangie began speaking. “Last but not least, I want to recognize the woman of the CCA Award.”
“Oh God, this is a little harder. I’m good.” I said to myself, “You can do this, you can be happy for any woman in this room.” Tangie continued, “This person has always been committed, consistent and accountable. She’s here most times before I get here, putting out the chairs.”
“Ok,” I thought, “who is she talking about?” She continued, “When the choir was going through and we did not have many members, she called me, encouraged me, and gave me a word. She would tell me, ’Keep putting the chairs out, and watch God fill them.’” Then it hit me – she’s talking about me! I’m that nominee, the one who has no idea or thought that she will hear her named called. I heard my name. With a shear look of amazement and shock on my face, my hands covered my mouth as it dropped open. I began looking around in utter disbelief as if to get another’s approval; asking with my eyes, “Who me?” “Did you know?” Then came the tears, the hugs, and the slow walk to the stage as I tried to gather my thoughts and emotions because I have no speech prepared. “What will I say? Who I will thank? I hope I don’t forget anyone or make a fool of myself.”
As I made my way to the podium, all I could think is, “God you are Awesome! I could never understand why You told me to call her and tell her that after I had left the choir. It didn’t make sense to me then, but it was making perfect sense to me now.” Tangie and I hugged with a long embrace of genuine love for one another with our faces full of tears; tore up with the “Ugly Face.” It has since then been our joke, when the Holy Spirit hits us, “Ooh girl you really had the “ugly face” today.” She whispered in my ear, “I love you girl.” God had done it! I believed that this was her way of saying, “Chris, will you forgive me too?” In the same public way that I had asked for her forgiveness, God had healed our relationship in a way I had never seen coming.
I’ll never forget that day and everything that lead up to it. It has shaped and molded me as I allow God to build character in me and to make me fit for His use. I now understand why I had that pit-feeling in my stomach. It was the Holy Spirit, preparing me and letting me know that I had been delivered from chasing what only He could give me. I still find myself asking God the question, “Who me? I didn’t know that was there,” But that’s okay because God is not through with me yet.
Question for Comment: Have you had a “Who Me” moment?
Chris Allen is the founder of AWIC and will be one of the speakers at “The Experience”. She worships at Sharon Bible Fellowship Church in Lanham, Maryland.