I sat in the back of the cathedral during Olivia Singleton’s memorial service two weeks ago. Like the majority of my classmates, I concluded my weekend emotionally drained and exhausted. I came to the service hoping for a word from God—for a little note with an “I’m here for you” kind of message.
He gave me more than a note. God wrote me an entire letter that night by using every song Jen Edwards sang to speak directly to me. The worship service gave me the chance to bear all the pain in my heart before God so he might begin the healing process.
As missionaries, my family had the privilege of traveling all across the States while on furlough. We would stop at churches from all backgrounds and denominations, and I always enjoyed observing churches’ different worship services. The United Methodists love their hymns. Baptist choirs sing slightly more contemporary songs and might occasionally clap to the rhythm of a song. Pentecostals raise their hands and cry.
When I first came to the States, I perceived American worship services as somewhat stiff and restrictive. I recall inwardly laughing one afternoon while eating lunch with an American family after visiting their church. The couple mentioned how an elderly man had “really gotten into the worship” with some energetic foot thumping. An image passed through my mind of an 80-year-old Turkana woman from back home in Kenya who danced by jumping up and down for two hours straight during a church worship meeting. I guess you could accurately say she had “really gotten into the worship.”
Throughout my time in college, however, God has chipped away at my cynical view of western worship. The longer I live in the States, the more I come to appreciate the beauty of not only American worship, but of the process of Christians coming together to glorify God with their voices.
The intimacy that develops between God and His children when we lift our voices in song has always awed me. David dedicated the majority of his psalms to the director of music. As the “man after [God’s] own heart” understood the power of telling God through song about just how much we need Him . . . of the pain we feel . . . and of His overwhelming grandeur (Acts 13:22). People throughout the Bible used music to speak to God. Miriam sang a song of praise in celebration of leaving Egypt. Paul and Silas sang hymns while in prison. Deborah praised God through song after defeating the Canaanites.
As Christians, we sing praises when we’re happy, and when we’re sad; when we sense God’s nearness, and when he seems far away; at weddings, and even at memorial services.
Looking around the room that Sunday night, I felt privileged to be a part of the Body of Christ.
I don’t know the pain you may be struggling with right now. I don’t know about the thoughts and questions whizzing through your mind. I don’t know how to fix a situation that has left many shattered. But perhaps the best thing we can do right now is to go before a God who does know all these things and sing him a song.