Warning: Something is about to go wrong.
I’ve told the choir members to meet me at a certain venue at a certain time. I’ve given them each a handout which states the address, what time to be there for warm-up, and what to wear. I’ve emailed everyone to remind them of the details. I’ve checked in with the host at the venue. I’ve checked in with our sound man. We’ve rehearsed and rehearsed, and we know the music well. “What could go wrong?” I tease myself.
I’m teasing because I know that an hour before our meeting time, my phone will start to ding. These are actual texts: “What time do you want us there?” “Are we supposed to wear black and white?” “I had a flat tire.” “I’m stuck at work.” “I just want to warn you that I haven’t been able to keep anything down all day.” “I am totally lost.”
I chuckle and text back as kindly as I can, because honestly, I’ve learned to expect this. Now, I must confess that a younger me would have gotten frustrated. Or flustered. Or overwhelmed. I humbly admit that it has taken over a dozen years of directing this choir for God to teach me to just be patient with people, let things slide, relax, and enjoy the humor. Because it might pour rain at the fair. Someone will forget their music. There will probably be a microphone that isn’t working. Someone may get nauseous. Or sprain an ankle. Or perhaps the director could come down with laryngitis.
Oh, I’m not being facetious. These are all things that actually happened this summer with the choir. And I may have finally learned that all these things don’t really matter.
Because there are issues much greater than these that are going on way below the surface. Someone in the choir is coming straight from a chemo appointment with their daughter. Someone else just buried their son last month. Someone is going through a heart-wrenching divorce. Someone else just lost their job. At least two are battling depression. Others are doing their best to stay victorious over addictions.
When I take a deep breath and look out over the forty-some faces that have finally gathered and are looking my way, waiting for me to cue their first note, I pause in admiration that some of them are here at all. And I don’t believe that this group is unique in that sense. Take any group of forty people and I’m pretty sure you would find a similar amount of pain behind their eyes.
This is precisely why we sing gospel music. There is something very therapeutic, something rather healing about lifting our voices in praise to the Almighty God. Even when we are hurting inside. Especially when we are hurting inside. This joint effort to make good music, despite the teeth-clenching struggles of our individual days, to open the lips and loosen the vocal cords, and pronounce the lyrics together of a hope beyond ourselves — it nourishes the soul.
No wonder the Psalmist writes:
Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
How pleasant and fitting to praise him . . .
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
(from Psalm 147)
And that’s just the balm that soothes the singers’ hearts. Then there’s the person in the audience who needs the reassurance that the sun will indeed rise again tomorrow morning. The soul that yearns to be reminded that God’s promises are true, that He walks beside us, that He offers eternal life.
So let the rain fall at the fairgrounds. Shrug your shoulders if a light goes out. And if you come in singing at the wrong time, laugh it off. It’s just one of those things. Just don’t let it stop you from praising the Lord.
Suzanne Rood is the author of A LIMP OF FAITH, Credo House Publishers 2019, available on Amazon here