Have you ever been in church, and the hymn you’re singing just feels like the ultimate praise to God? Effervescent joy and happiness rising up and all that jazz?
Well, I didn’t have that for a very long time. When I was a kid, my favorite hymns were ones meant for Advent, Lent, or Good Friday, or were generally in minor keys, and/or dealt with really heavy subjects. My favorite psalm (it’s still one of my favorites, but it’s not my ultimate favorite anymore) was Psalm 22. If you’re from a liturgical bent, you know the one I’m talking about. It’s the psalm chanted/sung/read while the altar is being stripped for Good Friday. I was super into the sad side of the church, but not as much into really upbeat songs.
Don’t get me wrong, Christmas Eve is wonderful, and Easter is beautiful, and all that jazz. But it just really did not click for me until I sang “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” with my choir in undergrad. I’m sure I heard the song before in church at least twice, and I know I knew the song before I sang it.
But something about singing that song with that choir really made me feel joy. I couldn’t really explain it, other than I felt like I was being musically carried through the song. It reminded me of what church is supposed to be about, what it meant to so many people I went to church with, but my heart just could not feel that same joy. When we got to “Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore him,” I know I had a simple smile on my face, but on the inside, I felt something like this:
For the record, I know that some of my issues with finding joy in the songs was due to normal teenager moodiness, and another part of the issues was probably due to mental health stuff that I still struggle with. But even when I was young, I had a fascination for the sad and penitential parts of the church year, so I don’t completely discount all of my previous feelings about those hymns and seasons.
Also, church can be, is, and often should be more than mere praise. Are we supposed be in church to confess our sins and receive forgiveness? Of course! That’s part of being Christian. Are we supposed to go because our faith is lived in community as well as individually? Again, yes. We grow individually by living and working together.
But sometimes, it is enough to “let the amen sound from his people again”, for “all that have life and breath, come now with praises before him.” There’s time for all types of worship, the pentiential, the sorrowful, the joyful, the expectant hope.
How about you all? What hymns bring you joy? Is it a favorite hymn from childhood, or is it a song that spoke to you in later years?
Tune in tomorrow for a post about music therapy, and why I’m (kinda) choosing music therapy over full-time church music geekdom.