On my father’s side, my family carries a long tradition of music, particularly in amateur a capella. My husband jokes about that time when he first took a road trip with my family, and we started singing in the car—with all the choral parts. He may have felt a bit bewildered. He still says that when all my extended family sings Happy Birthday, it’s something to behold. (It is! They sent it to me on video for my birthday this year. I was in harmonic heaven.)
So I sing now, by myself—while I wash the dishes, or as I plod along on the guitar I’m learning; the acoustics in my concrete house are pretty sweet. And I sing particularly when I’m happy, my husband has noticed.
But of course, when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Though, sure, God gets a big kick out of skillful music, I get a little into myself at times—to the rich sound reverberating off the walls, even to my own fantasies. (I know. Ugh.) Let’s just say the “worship” swivels its focus a bit.
Makes me wonder whether the ballad hitting God’s ears is even half as satisfying as the one spiraling into mine: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matthew 15:8).
Of course, that means that on days when I have some nasty cold, or my early morning voice—the one that kind of resembles a duck that’s about to die—the sounds emitting from my soul may be much sweeter than I anticipate.
Here’s what I see: God refers to the “eyes” and “ears” of the heart a lot—and their abilities don’t necessarily parallel flesh and bone. At all. Paul speaks of “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18); Jesus talks about fully-functioning eyes that don’t see, ears that don’t ear. And it fascinates me, actually, that when the paraplegic lowered through the roof asks to be healed, Jesus tells him your sins are forgiven long before he does a thing about the guy’s legs.
C.S. Lewis tells a story in The Great Divorce about a group of people boarding a bus tour of heaven. Yet when they disembark there in heaven, these earthlings find that this land of God’s is so real that they are phantasmal. The grass cuts their feet like diamonds; an apple is too dense to lift. They’re merely ghosts in the blazing trueness of heaven’s reality.
I’m fascinated by Lewis’ vivid depiction. What if all we see is flip-flopped? What if what we see as most real—this empirical, I-trust-what-my-five-senses-absorb, tangible world is actually the least real of all?
I realize that in my home culture, the spiritual world is seen as something to be proven; that it’s highly suspect in this tangible swirl around us, despite evidence that the greatest parts of our lives–love, for example–remain unseen. But in Africa, Asia, and cultures around the world, it’s quite the opposite. The spiritual world is a given.
If indeed all this is the other way around—and this life is simply a shadow of what’s to come, something far more enduring and imperishable—it’s worth me stockpiling every egg of my life in that basket; worth the crazy decisions we make for a King we don’t see; worth me asking God to “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” Worth not only the tune of my lips, but the song of my soul.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God,
so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.