From Cruise Ship to Worship
by Paige Braley
It’s the perfect career for a singer.
Travel the world, get paid incredible amounts of money for only a couple hours of work, spend most of your days on the beach, pay zero bills, sing for hundreds of thousands of different people over the span of seven months, come home, have a few months to do absolutely nothing—and then go back out to paradise and do it all over again.
Hawaii, Australia, Fiji, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Alaska, The Caribbean, Spain! Dozens of beaches, catamaran tours, exciting excursions, late-night parties, limitless cocktails, five-star resorts and restaurants, fans singing our praises every night.
Sounds perfect, right?
After traveling the world as a cruise ship performer alongside my husband—for the last four years—we’ve decided to transition back to land life. A huge reason we’ve chosen to do so is to respond to God’s call, and plant ourselves in Mason, Ohio. More specifically, at Christ’s Church.
Living for Me
I’ve always been a person who values growth. From personal development to bettering myself, growth quickly became defined more so by achievement, and then that achievement defined my worth.
I took something as innocent as self-betterment, and turned it into a false idol. Chasing impossible standards, constantly wanting more, and to make a long story short—I began to worship myself. Much different than self-love, which celebrates our true authentic nature, self-centered worship was focused on the “self” I created, and put on a pedestal (usually titled, Instagram).
The first thought on my mind in the morning was how I could do something to create a better image. Two hours spent in the gym, two hours spent doing my hair and makeup, constantly filtering everything I said and did in order to maintain the perfect image. I’d constantly size myself up and check in with how others were doing . . . physically, financially, relationally, and more, as a sort of measuring stick to see how I was doing. I’d journal on how I could portray a better image the next day, “recreate myself” to fit the bill of the perfect cruise ship performer.
In a word, exhausting.
After injuring myself (twice), going through shingles, finding myself in utter isolation, and completely dry, I experienced an unexpected death for the first time in my life. My perfect world came crumbling down.
As I realized that even though I was being praised on social media, and even in public, when it mattered most, and I was alone with myself, I was lost. Broken. Empty. Afraid. And unsure of my beliefs . . . about anything.
In true Paige fashion, I went to work. I found books, journals, anything I could get my hands on to approach figuring out my beliefs in the most Type-A-To-Do List way I could.
But the Spirit had other plans.
To speak to me through the brokenness. A fractured hip made it impossible to spend hours distracting myself in the gym. A cast of beautiful human beings and a husband full of love made it impossible to isolate myself. What I was reading and learning I was also witnessing. It was messy, it was unique, but it was real.
I went home. I let my guard down. I asked God to come with me, and to guide me toward the life I was actually meant to be living. I knew that if the God I read about and heard of as a child was real, then he didn’t plan for me to live such an isolated, stressful, painful life.
I also knew that I needed a church home, a community with whom to walk through this journey. I had gotten as far as I could in isolation, and knew God was calling me out into the world, to connect with others who could help me discern my faith even further. My plan was to do a church tour. I had a list and everything. Christ’s Church was not on that list.
My aunt invited me to Christ’s Church our first Sunday home, and I thought, Why not?
After seeing the authentic, real, raw worshiping heart of a now friend, I was pulled in. While worshiping in song I was able to access a part of my heart that I hadn’t in years. The message didn’t fall short either. I was hungry, and signed up for the Foundations class the next week to learn more. My second week at church I heard lead pastor Trevor DeVage speak, and knew that this man was exactly who God sent to speak truth into my life and help me on my journey. Within another week I was on stage, using my voice to worship the God who brought me into his presence and into the church he intended for me, leading others into his presence as well.
Feeling more fulfillment and joy than I had ever felt using my vocal gift, I knew I was doing what I was put on this earth to do. I was using my voice, my authentic and true voice, to honestly speak to God, bringing before him my praise and struggles, and finding healing. And now I was standing in front of a congregation of people, inviting them to engage in a personal experience with their Father. It was humbling, exhilarating, and powerful.
There has not been a moment while worshiping that I’ve missed the beaches, the parties, or the praise of the audience. What feels better than looking out at fans staring at you in adoration and screaming your name? Looking out and seeing a congregation of people in communication with God. For some that’s a hand held high and head raised, for others it’s a teary look in their eyes as the Spirit is moving in their soul, and for others it’s total surrender and singing out loudly. That’s what I was put on this earth to do. Worship.
And I don’t only mean onstage singing only.
With my lifestyle.
I no longer have to filter my life, over analyzing my next move to see what will gain me the most success, achievement, and adoration. I no longer have to strive for impossible standards, spending more time on the false image I’m trying to create than the authentic life I’m living.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).
My life is an act of worship. Fully surrendered to Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NIV).
When I wake up in the morning these days, I thank God for the gift of life. Before I do anything, I spend quiet time in the Word and prayer journaling. I move my body to feel good and to be the healthy, energized version of myself that God intended me to be. I fuel my body and give it rest. I love everyone I come in contact with, regardless of where they are in life. I see every part of my day, even the challenges, as opportunities from God. I check in with him all day long, asking him to show me his will and to give me strength and guidance for each part of my day.
I am not living a life of stress, chaos, comparison, and strife—but a life of surrender, kindness, love, and worship. I am no longer living to idolize myself, I’m living to respond to a call. I want to be the hands and feet of Christ, the way he uniquely designed and intended for me.
And that is the perfect life.
Paige Braley is a singer/songwriter and author, who is fully embracing a season of transition while spending her time creating for God.