My husband and I aren’t big watchers of (current) TV shows. If we’re going to watch anything on TV, our default is “Friends” reruns on Netflix. We’ve seen the entire series way too many times because honestly, there’s just not much on the few channels we get that we’re interested in watching. (Also, as a side note, we’re now incapable of having an entire conversation without a reference to the show. That’s probably not good.)
However, there are a few shows that we never miss. One of them is “America’s Got Talent”. In case you aren’t familiar with the show, it’s essentially a high-stakes talent competition that brings in pretty much every possible type of act you can imagine (and a few that you’d never dream of). Every summer when the show airs, there is one contestant who grabs my heart and won’t let go.
This year, it’s Mandy Harvey.
Have you heard of her? Even if you don’t watch the show, you don’t have to be on social media very long before her name pops up. There’s a reason for that: she’s incredible.
It feels like her voice reaches my soul…but her story reaches even deeper, if that’s even possible. Because Mandy? The girl with the phenomenal gift of singing and songwriting? She can’t hear a single word coming from her mouth, or a single note her fingers strum on her ukulele.
Mandy is completely deaf. You can learn more about her with a simple internet search, but this girl puts a lump in my throat and a knot in my chest every time I see her perform. It’s always beautiful, yes. But there’s something else.
To be honest, I want to be like Mandy. Not in my ability to sing and bring a crowd to their feet, but simply in the way I live my life through the use of my God-given gifts.
Because here’s the thing. I’m a people pleaser, and writing and speaking publicly – vulnerably pouring out the deep parts of who I am – opens me up to criticism. Transparency, it seems, is only welcome until it reveals something uncomfortable. Topics of faith and heartbreak and mental illness happen to be that kind of thing. As a result, I often feel like I’m shouting into the wind. I’m hurling my actual heart into an abyss and waiting for something – anything – to return to come back to me.
My words go out…and rarely anything comes back in. I don’t know if what I’m doing is making any difference. I don’t know if these words reach anyone as I hope and pray they do. I don’t know if they even make sense once they leave my fingertips and go out into the world. I can’t really know, so I analyze and critique myself ad nauseam. I consider what I might be doing wrong, and – after changing and adapting a couple of times – eventually always reach the point of wanting to quit. To stop what I’m doing. To give in to the enemy’s constant demands that I sit down and shut up.
“If this isn’t making a difference,” I reason, “why should I keep going? It would be easier to just stop.”
While I don’t know Mandy personally, I suspect she has had similar thoughts. Life as a creative of any kind is just hard. And since I have read some things about her, I do know that it is her faith in Jesus that has kept her going. Losing her hearing could have put a muzzle on her God-given gift of music. It could have been forced obedience to that dark voice: sit down and shut up.
But Mandy would not be silenced, even when the rest of the world was. Because Mandy had a song. Mandy had something to say. Mandy had a story to tell, and stories can be like caged animals. Stories, not content to be kept inside, must be set free to fulfill their purpose.
I, too, have a story to tell, so I write. I speak. I can read (and re-read and criticize and analyze) what I write and send into the world, but I rarely – if ever – see what comes of it once it’s been released. One of my favorite quotes is, “The pebble never gets to see the ripple.” Those words resonate with me, but it would – on occasion – be nice to know that the water has even been stirred.
And Mandy sings. Now that she’s on a bigger stage and in front of a larger audience, she can see how people react to what she and God are doing, but doesn’t actually know firsthand what they are reacting to. The chasm between her ears and her mouth remains. She can hear nothing she produces, and has to trust her Father when He tells her it is good. And it is so, so good.
Really, y’all. I cry every single time.
Her words continue to soar because she trusts the gift she has been given…but most of all, she must trust the gift Giver. She can see the thousands of people responding to the songs she sings to them…but she must trust what she can’t see: that there is One who sings His own song over her. She can’t hear the compliments of her supporters or the criticism of her opponents…but in her heart she must hear the praise of the One who adores her for just being her. That must be enough for her.
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.” (Matthew 25:23)
“He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
It must. And I want to be like that.
The common thread that we both must cling to is trust. We both must trust the process and trust the One who set us on this path. I have to trust that my job is simply to release the words, and she has to trust that He makes the words what they need to be.
Actually, when I think about it, maybe she and I and our situations aren’t all that different. Because actually, all of it comes from His hands and is still in His control. It will be what it will be. All we can do is try.