Childhood Trauma

I was very traumatized in sixth grade choir.  I’ll pause as the stunned laughter subsides…..

Yes. I was in choir.  In sixth grade.  You didn’t actually have to be able to sing.  The elementary school I attended was experimenting with electives and one was choir. I took it. And I was traumatized they day they made me sing. Shocking expectation, I know.

We sang all these great songs. Big Rock Candy Mountain and The Rainbow Connection are the ones I remember most. It was super fun.

But then, at the end of the year we had to “audition” for Jr. High choir. Even if we didn’t want to be in choir (I was doing band, why did I have to audition for choir?). The required audition was off to the side in a private area, sectioned off from the other kids (we met in the gym). But you had to sing with two other people. The teacher would start playing on the piano and you and the other two people would sing.


And TWO other people.

Not alone, but not enough to hide the sound of my hideous singing. Even then I knew I couldn’t sing. (I don’t know how I knew, I guess someone told me? Or I was too terrified to try?) Truthfully, it would have been worse if it had been just me and the teacher. I was terrified even to sing in front of the music teacher.

I opened my mouth.  I’m not sure if anything but a squawk came out.  It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I cannot even tell you who else was in that little audition with me. But I can still feel the embarrassment I felt. We were sent back to our seats and that was the end of that.

Or was it?

Last night as I sang my sweet, fussy baby a song trying to relax her, I sang one of the three songs that I can actually remember most of the words to, The Rainbow Connection.  As I rocked and sang I thought about how funny it was that I had sung that song to each of my seven children, yet few other songs.  I really don’t know a lot of songs well enough to sing without background music. And I rarely sing to my babies. I pondered how something from 30 years ago could be so implanted in my brain.

That’s when I realized for perhaps the first time the extent of the trauma that one audition had inflicted upon me. I’ve never been able to sing in front of people. Until very recently, if I thought the people near me can hear, including my husband, I couldn’t sing. At all. Not a sound.  I had a very hard time singing to my children as they grew out of babyhood. I’ve been teased and mocked about my lack of singing ability enough (very little, but enough) that I just refuse. Instead of trying to learn, I make a point to tell people, I just can’t sing.

Because fear.

Fear tells me that I’m incapable and I’m not good enough and brings that same feeling rushing over me that I felt that day, 30 years ago in that classroom. Fear blocks my joy.

But God.

God has redeemed much of that fear over the last few year. A generous gift for which I never asked.  I’ve gained the ability to trust and the ability to let go.

I truly think that moment of “audition” was a big part of my public speaking fear, my refusal to do drama in school or church and many other fears that hold me back from living the abundant life God has called me to live. Over the last 6 or so years God has gently, and sometimes not so gently, chipped away at those fears, opening me to a much less fearful, more joyful life. I still don’t sing for other people, but I rarely actually worry whether others can hear me sing in a car or at church. And my poor, much more musically inclined, children have to endure listening to me sing when we turn on my favorite songs at home.

So today I ask you, what childhood trauma are you letting define you? What event, or moment in time are you allowing to steal your joy? If you can’t pinpoint to moment, ask God to show you the root of your fears.  Fear holds you back from what He has called you to do, the life He has given you to live.





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