I have been singing in church since I was old enough to belt out “Jesus Loves Me” and “This Little Light of Mine.” As a child, I loved the old hymns like “Trust and Obey,” “Blessed Assurance” and “He Lives.”
I sing in the choir now, and take great delight in it. I always have. It’s more than beautiful music, although that is certainly a big part of it. It’s the camaraderie of being goofy with a bunch of old friends, the goofiness coming from the joy of being together again because we love each other and we love God. Not very many of the choir members read music. Our practices sometimes are a bit rough, with us trying to learn new songs. At first, we stumble around some, and eventually we find our way and through the grace of God we sound wonderful. That’s not a boast. In fact, it always seems like a miracle. We hand God our talent and willingness and he makes something beautiful out of it for his glory.
It always amazes me and I meditate on the phenomenon once in awhile. I’m convinced that God cares more about the purity of the giver’s motives and heart than he does about perfect notes. I believe a person can hit every note perfectly, and the song sound dissonant to God if his heart is not in the song, while someone who is singing to God from an honest heart, with her whole spirit, can miss a few notes and still sound beautiful to God’s ears.
One of my favorite memories of Amber was taking her to choir practice on Wednesday nights at Northeast United Methodist. Oh, we had a great time, but like my current choir, not a lot of people read music. A lot of wrong notes were hit, and Amber, who had a perfect ear for music, caught every one of them and laughed herself silly. Her laughter was contagious too, and rather than shame anyone, it actually seemed to encourage us, because even mistakes freely offered are worth something to God.
My mind often goes back to those days, and my childhood. I remember those hymns, but the person I remember most from those days is an old man whose name I can’t recall. But, I do remember him singing with everything he had as he stood behind me. He belted out “Victory in Jesus,” with the first line coming out like, “I heered and old, old story, how a Savior came from glory…” He may not have been the best singer in the world, but, in a congregation where many sang as if they might be dying, this man offered himself fully. So that now, even to this day, “Victory in Jesus” is my favorite hymn.
I believe that if you get every note right, but your spirit is not in it, you’re not really singing to God at all. The one who truly sings is the one who opens up his heart and shares it with those who listen. I can just imagine Heaven, with its massive choir, singing with joy, joking around because we’re so happy, and Amber there, laughing because I can’t imagine that it can be a perfect choir without a few wrong notes.