This morning, as I was finishing up prep work for my Thursday class, My Sweetie returned from his marketing. I had been digging through YouTube to find recordings of the hymns/songs we sing in class, singing along as I went. Later, as I was arranging this week’s flowers, he commented, “You were singing so beautifully when I came in! What was that about?”
I told him the curriculum prompts us for at least one hymn per class, and usually two. He laughed. “Theology through hymns?” I earnestly agreed. “I think through hymns we learn theology in deeper ways, maybe longer-lasting ones, than we can through sermons.”
On a recent Sunday, we started singing the song below. As I drew breath and formed words, I dug my nails into my palms so that the pain would keep my throat from choking with tears. Not because it touched a nerve currently raw—you’d likely have heard about it here if that was so—but because when I was struggling most (well, second-most), I used this song to claim truth I was unable to reach.
So why now, three years after the storm’s waves began to settle into gentle swells, do shaping those words cause tears to roll out of my eyes? No matter how deep the grooves I carve into my abused palms?
How is it that, for me, this song collapses time-then (in struggle’s grief) and time-now (in the resolved peace)? In both directions?
I suspect what I know to be true for me is humanly true—singing is not simply a matter of words consumed, or music shared. It is a whole-self experience: integrated embodiment. The brain absorbs the words even as the body produces the sound, channeling or re-directing emotion in the moment. That might not be part of a faith experience—think of a song on the radio that you always sing along to—but when it is, the “words of God” or “knowing-about-God” (theology) becomes as multidimensional as we humans are.
We are God-made creatures, wholly meant to think | breathe | move | make sound. When we do those things all at once, we are thoroughly as God intended us to be. As God became, in Jesus Christ. How better to celebrate God? It’s no surprise, then, that music of faith burrows down through the intellect, below the emotions, to become part of our God-breathed bedrock.
So: just sing!