In 1991, I was invited to sing the National Anthem for an Atlanta Braves game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to that warm July evening, I had only sung our National Anthem once publicly—at the opening of the Little League season in West Palm Beach, Florida. Let’s just say that first experience was a whole lot less intimidating.
The Star-Spangled Banner is a stirring, wonderful song, but no
one has ever claimed it was easy to sing. I was so nervous. I rehearsed madly, consumed bottles of Maalox, and then
it was time to step out on the field. A reverent hush fell upon the stadium as
the players removed their caps, and Old Glory flapped in the wind.
I began… “Oh, say can you see….”
So far, so good. My voice filled the massive stadium. I could hear it reverberating back to me with every note. But then, something unexpected happened. As I came to the line “…and the rockets red glare…” I choked and gagged. Glottal shock! Have you ever heard of it? Well, there are 47,000 baseball fans who could tell you exactly what it sounds like.
Glottal shock renders the singer momentarily voiceless.
I choked on “glare,” and heard myself gag over giant speakers reverberating throughout the stadium.
In that moment, time stood still. As if in slow motion, I could see forty seven thousand faces slowly contorting into confused and shocked expressions. I wanted to evaporate. I wanted to drown in a massive sea of Maalox.
But, I couldn’t. I had to finish the song. Making my recovery, I finished strongly as I belted out, “and the home of the brave!” The stadium erupted in applause, and I nearly melted in sweet relief. I was so glad that it was over.
As Phil walked me off the field, he said, “Way to go honey, way to recover.” When I met up with my folks, my Dad spoke of how proud he was, and my Mom echoed her sentiments. As I ran into friends, they were generous with their compliments. But all I could think about was the glottal shock.
That one stadium-sized mistake.
The broken word “glare,” replaying over and over in my mind.
Do you know how many words are in our National Anthem? To save you the singing and counting, I’ll fill you in. There are 82. That means I sang 81 words well.
Even so, I couldn’t hear the applause. I couldn’t hear my parents’ compliments - or the consoling words of my husband or the congratulations of my friends. All of the positives were overwhelmed and overshadowed by that one sour note. I was humiliated and haunted by my mistake.
Finally, after several days of self scrutiny, I told myself to focus on the 81 words I sung well, rather than the one word I choked on. One wrongly sung word doesn’t justify quitting - not for me, and not for you!
Most of us sing 81 words well, but we too often focus on the one mistake. That’s not what God does. He’s the Father sitting in the stands who says, “I’m proud of you, honey.” He’s the Lover of your soul who says, “Way to go. Way to recover.” He’s our Friend and Brother who is kind and generous with His words of encouragement.
He is the one who fashioned and created us. He is the one who reminds us to focus on the finish, not the flaws and failures.
There will be many days when one poorly sung note makes you want to quit singing, but to you, my sisters, I say, “Sing on!” (And to you brothers, I say, “Belt it out!”)
Finish the song with strength and confidence, knowing He uses the weak to confound the strong.
1 Corinthians 1:27 - God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
(Photo: Me and Tommy Lasorda of the LA Dodgers at the game where I sang the National Anthem.)