No, that’s wrong. Do it again,” Medea, my new voice teacher, chided me in her thick Russian accent. Though she was physically small, her stature was no indication of the size of her personality. She never minced words. In fact, sometimes what she had to say seemed downright harsh. But she was ultimately kind, and something about the balance she juggled of stern and encouraging and intuitive made me trust her. Already, I could not hide from her.
Singing the same phrase again and again, I tried to concentrate on singing correctly. Breathe lower, place the note higher, relax your jaw. Still my voice cracked.
“You got scared,” Medea told me. How did she know that? “We already had you tested. You have no injury on your vocal cords. You crack because you scare yourself. Try again.”
Again, my voice went out. She was right. I was afraid. Afraid of not having enough skill, afraid of embarrassment, afraid of failure. Fear, fear, fear. My face contorted into a grimace.
“Honey,” Medea’s voice softened, “look in the mirror.”
I glanced in that general direction but didn’t make eye contact.
“Look at yourself,” she instructed more sharply.
.My eyes connected with my image in the mirror. “Keep looking,” I heard Medea say. She waited for me to absorb her words. I stared into my own eyes, seeing my own fear.
“Now, love yourself,” she said. I started to look at her hesitantly, but she caught me. I couldn’t hide from her. “Look into your eyes. Love yourself.”
It seemed silly, but I believed in her. So I imagined giving a hug to myself. You can do this. You have enough skill. You don’t have to be afraid. No fear, no fear, no fear.
“Now sing.” She began to play the accompaniment.
I hit the note flawlessly.
Medea stopped and smiled at me. Her eyes twinkled like a Fourth of July sparkler. “That’s right. Love yourself.”
Jesus instructed in Mark 12:31 that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This He called the second great commandment.
As we love ourselves? We are told not to stand in the streets and boast of how wonderful we are.1 We grow up learning not to toot our own horns, for “nobody likes a braggart.” We are instructed always to encourage and put others first.
But Jesus also told us to take the planks out of our eyes before we can encourage someone else.2 And often, taking away the blinders from our eyes requires us to look deep. To make eye contact. To recognize our own self-worth. Only then will we be truly equipped to do the work the Father has for us.
I learned more from Medea than I have ever learned from any other vocal coach. She had the courage to dig deep and help me with the root of my fear. We worked together from the mental to the physical—from the inside out.
Jesus can do the same work with us daily, if we are trusting enough to listen to His instruction (even when it seems silly). We cannot hide from Him. He sees us in a way that we don’t see ourselves. But He wants to reveal that self-worth to us.
Maybe today He is telling us to look in the mirror and see the fear, but to have the courage to keeping looking and love ourselves.
After all, it is His second great commandment.
1 Matt. 6:5.
2 Matt. 7:3-5.
Addison Hudgins is a summer intern at the Adventist Review. She attends Union College, where she is studying English and Journalism with a music minor. This article was published July 21, 2011.