If you've been around my blog for any amount of time, you may know by now that I love hearing people's stories. It's one of my favorite things about being a part of the Quitter movement--being connected with people I never would have known otherwise, who have big dreams so different from mine and are pursuing them with their whole heart. And I love seeing how God has woven their experiences together to make them who they are today. For the last year, my husband has been producing an EP for a local singer/songwriter and worship leader named Sarah Banks (formerly known as Sarah McCary :) ).
I think we all have to deal to some degree with the pressure of what other people may or may not be thinking about us, and that, to me, was what stood out in Sarah's story. I find something so unifying and inspiring about how she has come to break free of the chains of others' opinions and trust in the unconditional love of Christ.
Her story resonated with me, and I wanted to share it with you all.
Sarah was not only willing, but excited to let me share it. It's a story of freedom and identity, and I hope something about it stirs something in you, too.
Though she moved around a lot growing up, Sarah spent most of her formative years in various parts of Texas. (The more I live in Nashville, the more I discover that Texans are everywhere. And they let you know it.)
At the age of 16, Sarah dove into songwriting as a way to express herself during a difficult time, both with her family and starting at a new high school. Pouring herself into her songs gave Sarah a way to connect with God and declare what he was teaching her even through her circumstances.
"It was really from a place of loneliness that God drew me to Himself and began teaching me not only more about Himself, but also how to write songs about all that I was learning," said Sarah.
After a couple years of practice, Sarah's music got into the hands of some people in the music business in Nashville, by way of her father. And to Sarah's shock, they were interested in meeting with her. Music then became a viable option for a career, even though Sarah had for years planned on attending bible college and working in the mission field.
Torn between her desire to go to bible college and pursuing her passion for music in Nashville, Sarah had a decision to make: move to Nashville and abandon her original dream, or pursue her first dream and risk disappointing a lot of people.
"I loved writing music and playing so much, but it was definitely the pressure from other people that pushed me to finally decide to move to Nashville instead of going to college," said Sarah.
Upon arriving in Nashville, fresh out of high school, Sarah felt expectations increase all the more, by way of the music industry--particularly in the area of songwriting. Heightened pressure to write a "radio hit" began to take a toll on Sarah. Taking on countless cowrite sessions yet still coming away with nothing that qualified as a "hit" made Sarah start to feel that her songs never measured up.
"From the start, I had wanted my music to be about making much of God and sharing what He was teaching me. Suddenly, I was making it all about whether my songs were good enough to be on the radio," recalled Sarah.
After realizing her focus had shifted, and having grown weary of the pressures of the music business, Sarah decided to take a step back from music--maybe temporarily, maybe forever--a huge risk after being in Nashville only a year.
"I was afraid people would see me as just another person who tried to 'make it' in music and failed. I was afraid that I was letting down all the people who did support me," said Sarah. "But even with all of the fear that it brought, I also felt so much peace. I felt like God was asking me to let go of all of those fears and make sure that I was pleasing Him in all that I was doing. It truly was a huge relief to step back and stop being so worried about meeting other people’s expectations."
After a little over a year of not pursuing music and taking time to strengthen her faith, Sarah has decided to trust God in making music again--this time for Him, and no one else.
"This time, my goal is simply to glorify God in the music I write and in everything I do with my music. I want to be most concerned with walking in humility and faithfulness and allowing God to use me in whatever way He desires."
At the beginning of this year, Sarah made the decision to jump back into writing and playing live.
Part of this new season of life is the release of her upcoming EP this spring entitled "For Your Kingdom." The EP contains 5 songs that Sarah wrote, reflecting her journey and desire to do everything unto the Lord.
If you want to hear some of her music and support the final stages of producing her EP by preordering it, please visit her Kickstarter page! Trust me, it sounds amazing, and you'll want this EP.
I love Sarah's story because it's such a great picture of what the world can do to us if we find our worth or identity in what people think, and how God's faithfulness can bring us back. One thing in particular that stood out to me was that fear showed up not only in pursuing music, but also in stepping away from it. It takes courage to step back and risk people thinking you "failed" in order to take care of yourself and your relationship with the Lord. I really admire Sarah for listening to that within herself and taking the risk anyway.
It's never too late to take a step back, cling to the Lord and make a change--no matter what people think. Even if you feel like you've gone too far in the wrong direction.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with pressures from what others think? How did you handle it?