In college, my buddy convinced me to take a vocal music class.
We both needed the credit hours to qualify for financial aid, so I gave it a shot against my better judgment.
Spoiler alert: There's a very good reason I chose writing as a hobby over singing.
It was a fun experience (albeit humbling) and taught me a few things that I, otherwise, would've never known.
Professional vocalists use several techniques to produce those notes we mere mortals fail to replicate in the shower.
The pitch and tone, facets of each sound are impacted by dozens of learned micro-behaviors - posture and arm placement, contractions of the diaphragm, tension in the jaw.
The fact that some artists can manage this while nailing choreography routines or being suspended from a trapeze 80 feet in the air (looking at you, P!nk) is mind-blowing.
That's not even considering the mental pressures of singing to thousands of real people who dropped a mortgage payment to hear their favorite song performed live. Meanwhile, I have anxiety over the virtual crowd on Guitar Hero...
While my inner-Adele never emerged that semester, I did find one concept fascinating: vibrato.
For the uninitiated, vibrato is the oscillation of pitch while sustaining a note. It's that rhythmic, rapid "up down, up down" our ears love during big finishes, like when Whitney leveled Tampa Stadium with her rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Vibrato is also the only singing "lesson" that isn't learned in the traditional sense. It happens naturally when a vocalist denies the instinct to restrict air flow and fully relaxes their voice box.
Accepting that they cannot, through any amount of force, influence it to happen.
It's, very simply, letting go.
What an anti-human concept, right?
Probably because it's a Jesus concept - who, ironically, was very human.
The Gospel talks a lot about the power of the "tongue" (i.e. stuff, good and bad, that comes out of our mouths).
James describes how words steer us like the rudder of a ship or the bit in a horse's mouth (James 3:3-5). He tells us that of all the animals in the kingdom the tongue is the one that man, in our immaturity, just can't tame. (James 3:7)
When I gossip about a coworker.
When I lose my temper on the interstate.
When I argue with a stranger on Facebook.
When I lash out at my family over something stupid.
I lose control of my words often.
What's cool about Jesus though - and what alley-oops this metaphor so nicely - is that He will handle it if I simply relinquish control.
He literally holds "the breath of all humanity" in His hands (Job 12:10), and the last time I checked, breathing is a vital prerequisite to running this mouth of mine.
My wife and kids will confirm, I've hit some pretty sour notes in the past - usually when I'm overwhelmed from trying to do it alone.
But when I allow Jesus to flow freely through me, all the ups, the downs, the vibrato of life comes through rich and beautiful.