Friday, April 10, 2009

Crosses to Bear (the Lite Version)

Well, Good Friday seems like a good time to think about crosses, doesn't it? I'm working on a theory that the best way to learn how to deal with our big crosses is to practice by dealing with our small crosses. Right now I'm practicing on Max.

Max is a young man in Our Fine Church, and Max is not his real name, in case you're wondering. He's married, with two young children. He is clearly bright, which I suspect he is well aware of, and likes to perform. He has a nice alto voice, rather soulful. In fact, he seems to think he's Aretha Franklin, or at least Aretha Franklin's back-up singer.

At Our Fine Church, we sing a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary praise songs. It doesn't matter which kind of song we're singing, however; Max does his thing in either case. It goes like this: first verse, the congregation (or church family, as we like to say) sings as one. Then the second verse begins. The emotion starts to build, and Max can no longer hold in the love he feels for God. He starts with a bit of echoing ("Yeah, t'was Grace that taught, yeah, my heart to fear, yeah" and by the third verse moves on to moaning ("Whoah, ohhh, many dangers, yeah, toils, whoa, snares, I said, snares, whoaaaa ") and by the chorus has begun caterwauling (which I can in no way duplicate).

Here's the funny thing. If he weren't a good singer, this would be charming. There is a woman in our congregation (church family) who sings so loudly and off-key, it's glorious. She just seems really happy to be hanging out with the church family (congregation) praising the Lord.

Max, on the other hand, has a strong, clear voice. His moanings and caterwaulings are on key and really quite good. But, uncharitable as it is to think, sometimes one wonders, "Is Max praising God or just showing off?"

And, the fact is, when Max starts wailing, I find myself more focused on Max than the words I'm singing. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone, as there are always folks glancing back at Max with a kind of perplexed expression on their faces.

I think Max may be a cross for many of us at Our Fine Church. I have found myself wanting to corner him after the service and say, "Max, chill out on the singing, man. You're showing off. You're taking the glory away from God and putting it on yourself." But I don't have that kind of chutzpah, and besides, I'm not sure it would be appropriate. I have no idea what's in Max's heart, after all.

Instead, I've decided that Max's singing is a good opportunity for me to practice charity. It's easy to find the humor in the situation, and it's not like I've never been a show-off or determined to let others know what a wonderfully talented individual I am. And, in fact, when I'm singing well in church, I'm sort of hoping the people around me notice. We all have an inner five-year-old screaming for attention. I suspect that when Max gets a little older, he may even feel a bit chagrined about his earlier performances. He's a man, so we can't depend on that sort of personal growth, but you never know.

Being charitable is something I need to practice, particularly in light of larger crosses I see looming on the horizon, crosses I'll be lugging across the years to come. Max, he's a twig. I pick him up, throw him over my shoulder. Now and then, I hum along.


Angela said...

Keep practising sister!! I do believe that "music in church" is one area where we ALL have to learn to be gracious. Like you we have a great mix of new/ old/ trad/ trendy stuff [we're a village with a lot of different sorts of people who ALL want to worship God with'their' music- which they are convinced is God's ONLY preferred style!!]And the temptation to ask "Are you doing this for YOU or for Him?" almost overwhelms me some sundays too. I guess I cannot change them- so I must just ask God to do it - and change me too!!
Easter blessings Ang xx

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Angela--I'm so glad you stopped by, because I've been trying to post a comment on your blog, but it doesn't seem to be working. Here's what I wrote:

Happy birthday, Angela! I hope you've been having a wonderful day. I like your new photo very much, but who knew you were only 25? Such wisdom and maturity for one so young in years...



as for your comment--is it possible we attend the same church and simply have never met? I guess that would be hard, with you being the pastor's wife and living in England and all, but stranger things have happened. May God bless us all and give us big, generous hearts!

Tracy said...

Boy do I hear ya! We have a lady who sings a very high soprano. If you're the unlucky soul to sit in front of her, all I can say is OUCH. We make sure we have no vacant pews behind us now. She hits notes that go straight through your head like an arrow.

And I've wondered the same thing. Is she showing of or is she truly lost in her worship somewhere between her spirit and God's. I'll never know, but my golly I'm cautious about seating.

Angela said...

Thank you for your comment- which did appear eventually!

Why can't all these high soprana/Aretha Franklin/oddball types get together and worship in the same church...or maybe THEY are saying that about US!!

You never know Frances- maybe we will get to meet one day [in the UK, the USA or possibly heaven!]

Left-Handed Housewife said...

Tracy, Your soprano with those piercing high notes--yikes! And yeah, who knows, she may be totally caught up in the spirit. It's nice to think so, but my thoughts usually don't tend in that direction, sad to say.

Angela, I hope we do meet one of these days. I plan on getting to the UK with the family before too long, so watch out! We would of course be happy to see you and Bob over here, so come see us sometime!

vgeerling said...

Sooo funny! We have a female Max who is about 50 years old and can sing exactly like an opera singer (but she's not one, maybe she should have pursued it) and so she opera sings every single song, it's very scary and distracting...
Happy Easter!

vgeerling said...

p.s. that was from victoria (dear meagan).