Monday, August 23, 2010

Songs of the Heart

I don't really think of myself as an overly emotional person. I don't break down into weepy sobs over every little thing and I don't usually fly off the handle at the slightest hint of offense. Still, there are moments when simple words are not strong enough to express me feelings. Poetry can sometimes be expressive enough to relay how I feel about a certain topic. There have been times in my life when my reaction to something was either "Wow" or pages of poetry. Sometimes it just pours out of me, complete with rhythm and rhymes.

As much as I like poetry, I still find it lacking at times. What it needs is music.  I believe music is one of the greatest gifts the Lord has given us. Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 says "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." I think of this passage often. There are times when I can't find the words to express what I am feeling but a song or hymn comes to mind.

About ten years ago, I attended a program called "Womanhood; Enjoy to the End". It was a musical presentation about the many challenges women face, performed by three women from Washington. At the time, I was living in Colorado Springs, thousands of miles from home with a newborn baby and a deployed husband. Although we had been actively attending our ward there, I didn't really feel like I had any friends. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and lonely.

During the program, they sang a song called "He'll Come Home With You." It was based on a story that has been shared in a General Conference more than once. Since it isn't very long, I will just quote the story for you.
As I turned around to walk back home, I could see my house lighted up. I could hear echoes of my children as I had walked out of the door a few minutes earlier. They were saying: ‘Mom, what are we going to have for dinner?’ ‘Can you take me to the library?’ ‘I have to get some poster paper tonight.’ Tired and weary, I looked at that house and saw the light on in each of the rooms. I thought of all of those children who were home waiting for me to come and meet their needs. My burdens felt heavier than I could bear.

I remember looking through tears toward the sky, and I said, ‘Dear Father, I just can’t do it tonight. I’m too tired. I can’t face it. I can’t go home and take care of all those children alone. Could I just come to You and stay with You for just one night? I’ll come back in the morning.’
I didn’t really hear the words of reply, but I heard them in my mind. The answer was: ‘No, little one, you can’t come to me now. You would never wish to come back. But I can come to you.’(Ensign, Nov. 2006)
I cry every time I hear this song or read the story. I am sometimes surprised by my reaction. The burdens of life can be so constant that I don't even realize that I am carrying them. Suddenly I feel so tired and weary. I realize that I have not been handing over my burdens to the Lord. I give them over...then start collecting a whole new bundle of cares. (Maybe some day I will learn to stop doing that!)

This isn't the only time a song can express perfectly what I am feeling. When my first child was born, I found myself sitting alone in the hospital room admiring his perfect, beautiful, sleeping little face. I had the TV on, I guess it was MTV or something, and a music video came on. The song was "I knew I Loved You Before I Met You" by Savage Garden. It was the perfect song for that moment. To this day, I don't think I could express that moment any better.

You may be wondering what prompted this post. Yesterday was Sunday. We actually made it to church on time so we didn't have to sit in the overflow. Even though we were sitting near the front of a full chapel, I could barely hear anyone singing. I looked around as people stared at their hymnals, mouths moving in silent mumbles. I was actually disgusted! I know the hymns were a little difficult and maybe some people are a little self-conscious about their singing voices. Still, as I quoted before, the Lord delights in the "songs of the heart". They are like a prayer to Him. He doesn't care if you sound like a strangled cat! It is what you feel in your heart.

I grew up in the Southern United States where people are passionate in their religious devotions. I can remember hearing certain members of the congregation singing very loudly and slightly out of tune, with a twanging southern accent to boot. They always reminded me of an old, untuned piano. To this day, I cringe when I hear certain hymns, the memory of those well-meaning singers still ringing in my ears.

Hearing loss and nightmares aside, I admire those old crooners. They understood that singing in church was not about impressing others. It was about expressing your feelings to the Lord. Don't misunderstand, we should still try and do our best. But when we are singing with the Spirit, expressing our love and, essentially, bearing our testimony through music, we will be blessed and bless others.

1 comment:

tkangaroo said...

This past Sunday, I had the same experience. I was sitting in overflow, and there were no hymnals. I know I sing loud, but when I am the only voice I can hear (and others do have hymnals), I am annoyed.

I wanted to shout, "Sing out, Louise!" (random Gypsy reference).