Memorial Day Monday could not have gone better. I performed at a music festival at the Pawtucket Red Sox game (AAA minor league team) to one of the most enthusiastic and engaging crowds I’ve had all year. Once in a while, as soon as Deejay Lady Grace drops the needle, I know in my gut that it’s going to be an exceptional show. And it was. Loud call and response, energetic hand waving and fist pumping, and attentive ears as I had the opportunity to share the Word. We debuted some new material and Grace’s timing was impeccable on the turntables. The crowd supported my merch table, and to top it off I had about twenty family and friends take the drive to Rhode Island to enjoy the day with me. Plus, I love baseball, and it was a sunny day with a light breeze; perfect baseball weather. We even got my nephew out there to throw the first pitch, I’m telling you it was a Memorial day to remember. I drove home with some of the youth from church and we had a remarkable time just building up and enjoying one another.
That very same week, on Friday, I performed at a local Boston club as an opener for a big headliner. The night just didn’t go as planned, to say the least. DJ Lady Grace was by my side, as usual, and we went into the ring swinging for the Kingdom. Sometimes we land punches, and other times, well, we live to fight another day. Upon our arrival, we discovered that the headliners (Kidz in the Hall & 88 Keys) were not coming. Needless to say, we were disappointed. Then we did our set. Grace’s timing was precise as always, as was my performance. Unfortunately, this crowd just wasn’t listening. They were talking. Amongst themselves. Loudly. I’m up there dropping jewels, and they’re, well, I’m not sure what they were doing. They were doing everything but paying attention to our set. Thankfully, I had about twenty family and friends come out to that event as well, and they all supported. But they were outnumbered. I left feeling a tad bit discouraged. We do those shows to shine that Light and it honestly felt fruitless that particular evening. No one blatantly criticized us, either. In fact, the other acts dapped us after the event and wanted to exchange information. The crowd, however, criticized us whether they intended to or not, simply by their indifference to our set.
I love it when my pastor’s sermons slap me in the head in perfect timing. Yesterday, my Pastor (Rev. Kurt Lange) spoke of how criticism can be our biggest distraction. He touched on how our own ego and pride can interfere with the work at hand that the Lord has assigned us to complete.
Nehemiah had work to do. He had a tremendous amount of it ahead of him, as appointed by the Lord, but mockers and critics continued to distract and criticize him. He refused to back down, however, and he continually let God deal with them. He allowed God to take care of his reputation, and continually reminded himself that his was supposed to be set apart and different. When he considered his adversaries and their attempts to stop him, Nehemiah simply asked God to “strengthen (his) hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9 NIV).
Criticism can hurt. When you’re discouraged, pour out your heart to God (as Pastor Kurt put it) and trust that He will give you the strength you need to stay focused on His calling. We can’t always understand His vision. For all I know, there were serious seeds planted that night in the club. That’s what we had prayed for, after all. Cheers and outward enthusiasm are not indicators of changed lives. We need to come to peace with the reality that God provides the tools and we are to till the ground in faith that He’s using us in the midst of distraction. Now get back to work.