How a Worship Leader Finally Found Her Voice

A while back my sister said something that stayed with me. We were talking about being in the workforce and how—no matter the creds you acquire, the years of experience, the courses completed, the certificates confirming you’ve earned a seat at the table or the coveted invite to the VIP cocktail—there remains a prickle of doubt, a sinister little internal voice that whispers, “You’re faking it.”

In normal times, I might not admit that out loud. But this is 2020.

In a year history will surely define as the “great gaslighting,” when truth is wielded as a cudgel against those who dare acknowledge or tweet it, it seems especially important to speak it out loud.

And the truth is, the older we get, the more we realize the less we know. And that’s why, I think, it’s easy for many perfectly qualified people to feel like a “poser”—that was the word my sister used to describe it.

I’m thinking about all of this when I sit down recently to chat with Kelli Coleman. She’s a certified life coach with the kind of sweet, serene spirit that’s captivating.

She’s a successful businesswoman, the longtime owner of the CutnUp In Style Salon in Chapin, South Carolina.

She’s beautiful, wearing hip clothes and boots and a trendy hairstyle that lets you know she’s fashion forward.

In short, she’s the woman other women would slap a “grownup” sticker on: Clearly, she has it all together.

But she’s talking to me because she wants me to take a closer look. Beneath the gloss, she’s inviting me to see the glue.

She has it together only because she’s been deeply broken.

Like a family heirloom that’s been mishandled and shattered, but one too precious to discard, Kelli picked up her broken bits one by one.

And God was the glue.

But what’s surprising about Kelli’s story is that hers is not a newfound faith. God didn’t rush into her story at the bottom, when she had come to the end of herself, like we hear about so often.

No, Kelli knew He was with her the whole time.

Kelli grew up in church. Blessed with a beautiful voice, she’s been a worship leader for some 25 years.

But by her own admission, for decades of her life she was an imposter, a “poser,” she says, living a double-life.

At church, she was the impressive woman with the voice to match. Outside of church, she partied and played freely. In reality, she says, she was in bondage—trapped in ruined relationships, severe depression, and debilitating physical disabilities. Ensnared by the things done to her, and by the consequences of her own decisions.

Though she credits her middle-class family with surrounding her with a top-notch upbringing and a home filled with love, some early trauma—a rape at 13 and a decision later to abort a baby in early adulthood—left her feeling alone and awash in guilt. Decades of broken behavior would follow.

“I forgot who God says I was…I forgot I was His treasure,” she whispers.

Through it all, Kelli remained in church. I ask her about this, about the disconnect between the worship leader and the woman living outside His will for her life.

She answers with simple honesty: “I was being disobedient.”

Perhaps it was this disobedience that saved Kelli Coleman, because it led to a deep depression.

There were three church couples who, for years, rallied around her and held her accountable. And it was amid the darkness of depression that God brought her crystal-clear clarity. For all her years in church and singing about her Savior, it was in her 50s that she truly surrendered to Him.

She’s sharing her story now because she knows she’s not alone.

She knows there are countless women who believe in Jesus, who sing about Him and even point others to Him, yet think they’re the one person too unworthy—living too out of bounds—for such a good Savior.

It’s the great lie.

Kelli became a licensed life coach for those women—for everyone who thinks everyone else has it all together. For everyone who ever felt like a poser. For everyone who is now or ever was a poser.

Jesus Christ went to the cross for all of them—for all of us. And Kelli wants them to embrace the joy and the forgiveness His cross and His Holy Spirit offer, not hide from that grace like she did all that time she sang to a full church with her empty heart.

Kelli is using her gifts of listening and empathy, her gifts for intercessory prayer, and her devotion to steering others along paths different and apart from the ones she trod. Today, she serves as a volunteer at LifeBridge in Newberry, South Carolina. The Christian nonprofit offers compassionate help and hope through advocating sessions and educational services.

Kelli has discovered she has a special heart for working moms. She tears up when she remembers her first son—and the decision she made so long ago. She says when God later gifted her with another son and a daughter, she stood in awe at His grace. Later, she went on to mentor and care for a 13-year-old with whom she is so close she considers that child her own.

Ultimately, Kelli wants to help others face themselves. She’s learned God turns mistakes into miracles, and dark secrets have no power in the presence of His light.

For years, Kelli Coleman sang the verses of “It Is Well with My Soul,” never truly connecting with the lyrics.

Today, she embodies their truth, and in the doing, has accomplished a great goal: Kelli Coleman, both glossy and God-glued together, is truly authentic.