Constance Fee is an opera singer and Director of Vocal Studies at Robert Wesleyan College
I learned from my parents that my life on the stage began before I was born. My mother was a professional singer and was performing until just before I arrived. Music was a constant in our home with all five of us children taking piano, instrument, theory, ballet, and voice lessons, and singing in choirs or playing in the orchestra. There was never any question about the path I would follow. After receiving degrees from Westminster, Indiana, and Curtis, my professional performing career began in the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and after one year of excellent training there, I quickly transitioned to 20 years of living and performing in Europe.
I grew up in a Christian household, but I left home at 18 not knowing that Jesus was alive. Due to the actions and comments of well-intentioned but misguided believers while I was in college, I came to the conclusion that Christianity could not possibly be what I was looking for, so I turned away from it. In its place, my career as an opera singer became my religion. I worshipped it, I obeyed its demands, and I sacrificed large portions of my integrity, my honor, and my well-being for it. My relationship with God was something that I acknowledged when I needed Him and denied when I thought I didn’t. I gladly accepted the gifts He had given me, but had no interest in allowing Him to get close enough to use them for His purposes.
After 10 years of aimless self-indulgence as a prodigal, I was finally brought to the end of myself. Because of intense anger concerning family dynamics and abuse, I was living in outright rebellion, running away from God as hard and as fast I could. But for reasons I can’t explain, He continued to bless me in ways I did not recognize or appreciate at the time.
At that time, I was failing in every area of my life and I finally came to a point of total desperation. I knew that either I was going to kill myself, or someone else was going to do it for me. Standing in front of an open 8th story window one day, I found myself thinking how easy it would be to just lean forward and let gravity do the rest. I can’t really explain what stopped me from letting it happen because I was certainly ready. Concerned friends could see that I was in serious trouble, but I was completely resistant to their arguments urging me to change my ways. Quite frankly, I was so far gone that I couldn’t even understand what they were talking about. What happened next was an entirely internal experience, and I believe it was the direct result of the fervent prayers of my grandmothers, my family, and my friends.
One night, I slipped into a complete mental, emotional and spiritual breakdown. I felt like a crevice in the earth had opened under my feet and that I was hurtling downward at tremendous speed. I had been living with absolute impunity and intense rage, but now I faced something I had never experienced before: genuine fear. I knew that when I hit bottom, something in me would be dead. I screamed out at the top of my lungs, “Jesus save me, Jesus save me! I don’t want to die, I want to live!!!!” The momentum of the downward spiral stopped instantly, I felt like I had been caught, and I was aware of something else I had never experienced before: absolute silence. I had been hearing such a constant cacophony of accusations in my head for so long that total silence was completely unfamiliar.
In the silence, I was aware of the fact that I was not alone and I had the distinct sense that I was with someone who had known me since before I was born. I immediately felt a sickening sense of embarrassment and shame. Shame, because I knew that this person had seen all the unconscionable, irresponsible things I had done. But I was still defiant. “I know who you are, and I know what you want. You want complete control of my life and I don’t want to give it to you. If I do, you’ll put me in a straitjacket, and I’ll have to learn an endless list of rules, and of all the things I can’t do any more.”
The next words I heard were completely unexpected. They changed my life forever. “That is what I died to set you free from. I came to tell you what you can do, not what you can’t do.” Up to that moment, I had been incapable of seeing God as a loving Father. With those words, I saw the image of a God I could serve, and to Whom I could give complete control of my life. By submitting to His yoke, I found forgiveness and peace. In choosing to obey, I found true freedom.
If you know someone who is struggling, I hope you will turn to prayer first. Speaking from my own experience, prayer was able to reach me at a depth that human pleas and well-meaning efforts could not.