I can’t sing. Really, I can’t. Some people say that and then belt out Happy Birthday on key and pitch perfect (whatever those phrases mean). I on the other hand open my mouth and something other than singing comes out. I first became aware of not being a music prodigy when my fourth grade class was to be the choir in the all-school play. During rehearsals, I sang with great gusto. Apparently too much gusto. Mrs. Smith took me aside and told me that I couldn’t be in the choir and that I was to go to study hall during practices. I wasn’t alone. Poor Lorena Russell, who was slightly plump and often teased, was singled out as well. (To this day I wonder how Lorena fared after this humiliation.)
That night I tearfully told my parents about my demotion. My dad met with Mrs. Smith the next day after school. Her recommendation? A kazoo. Yes, a kazoo.
So I vowed never to sing aloud again. Mrs. Smith’s are lurking everywhere, telling you that you are single-handedly bringing the entire church congregation off key. Mouthing the words was so much safer.
Everything changed however when my audience became short in stature. As a young mom and as an elementary school reading teacher, my voice reclaimed its gusto – singing the ABC’s with kindergartners, humming lullabies to my own babies, and chiming in with Raffi or Barney to calm disgruntled passengers in car seats. My audience, though admittedly captive, seemed delighted, or at least, no one grimaced or sent me to study hall.
Psalm 100 says,
“Make a joyful noise all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”
My twin grand babies turn two next month and I plan on singing Happy Birthday. Out loud. I have even bought a ukulele to accompany my joyful noise. (In fact, I am taking lessons from a very patient friend. You could go to Starbucks and buy a latte in the time it takes my fingers to change from a C to an F chord!). And I am adding, Jesus Loves Me and Away in a Manger to my uke repertoire.
So take that, Mrs. Smith. God does not care that I am off key and He is the one who made me – in addition to Lorena Russell, who I hope has reclaimed her own voice and is somewhere playing the uke to delighted grand babies.
That said, you may not want to sit next to me or Lorena in church as we belt out, Amazing Grace!