When I was younger, I loved to sing in public.

I think it began during those early days of school programs and vacation Bible school closing ceremonies, when all the children would parade up to the stage and sing group songs. I loved to be in the front row, and my parents never had to wonder whether they could recognize me among the other children. I was always the one singing the loudest.

As I got older, I actually joined a traveling group of singers that performed at various churches around the state, and often I sang solos. I also was on the list for Sunday “specials” during the worship service.

Singing in front of people was as comfortable to me as laying on the sofa reading a good book. I might have been nervous for a minute or two before going up on stage, but it rarely phased me. Once, I forgot words to the song, so I just hummed until I remembered them. Another time, one of the adult leaders of our singing group kindly pulled me aside to tell me that one of the solos I regularly sang might be a little out of my range. Actually, she said at times it sounded like I was screaming. I just picked another song.

A few years later, though, after a season of not singing in public much except for a wedding or two, I started attending a new church and was given the opportunity to sing in public again. A lot had happened in my life since high school, and by that time, I was more self-aware in a lot of areas of my life. In hindsight, I realized that my confidence as a singer in the past had actually outweighed my actual talent. And I had apparently duped a lot of people.

So, the first song I sing at the new church went only moderately well, and in an attempt at constructive criticism, the audio technician told me that I looked like I was sitting in a rocking chair I was fidgeting around so much. I felt the self-consciousness creeping into my mind.

During my next opportunity to sing, I was given a live guitar accompaniment, something I had never had before. And when it came time to perform, I sang the entire song in the harmony part rather than the melody. When the song was over, I walked calmly off the stage, made my way to the ladies’ room, and locked myself in until someone noticed I was missing.

A few people tried to coach me back to performing, but I haven’t done it since. I sometimes play guitar and lead worship for a small group of women in Bible study, but my days of performing are over.