We finally made it back to church on Saturday night. For several weeks we've been intending to go, but with Marie's early start (6am) it means that by 6:30pm - when the service starts - it begins to feel very, very late for us.
But this weekend Marie actually had her weekend (she works six days on, six days off) so we got to go. We went with our mums (as usual) and we all had a great time - as expected. Interestingly most of us hadn't been feeling that great in the afternoon, so it would've been easy not to go.
But anyway - what was I talking about? Oh yes the singing. How good it was to sing again. And also a bit disturbing. My voice isn't what it used to be - through sheer lack of practice. And it's not vanity either, I know my Lord deserves to hear the good voice he gave me, instead of some out-of-tune mumble.
Two people in my life have told me "Don't stop singing". The first was Graham Simons, my music teacher at High School and leader of the Senior Chorale. That was a great year. We sang songs ancient and modern, secular and sacred; we pushed our vocal chords to the limit; we made beautiful music. And there were only three guys compared to about 20 girls!
I was a bit of a late starter with joining the Senior Chorale, deciding to join only in my last year of school. Mr. Simons was impressed with my voice and said I'd go far. The other guys in the chorale also encouraged me. I was surprised myself at how I could carry my harmony sometimes. Man, it was so good especially singing the medley from Les Miserables,
"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs of angry men
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!"
Mr. Simons signed my yearbook and added, "Keep singing!"
Roughly twelve months later I produced my own album. I'd done everything - played the keyboards, drum machines, set up the mic, written the songs, designed the album cover and handled the marketing - pressuring good-natured friends and relatives!
It was awful. It is just a shame to listen to. My voice had grown grossly out of tune from a lack of practice. And I also discovered it's not always good to do everything yourself. I couldn't concentrate too well on doing one thing well.
That was in 1994. Fast-forward to 2002. We'd just joined this little church down the street from us; it seemed to be a small but exciting Pentecostal church. God was at work, great things were ahead etc.
As often happens with a small church, they needed help in the music. We just rocked up to the microphones (Marie sings as well; she's a pro though!) during one particularly free service and from then on we were part of the music team.
Fast-forward to the end of 2003. I was the keyboard player now; Marie was the worship leader. There were others, but the ones who were musically talented were prevented from serving (long, painful story) so we were pretty much it.
I'd experienced little hints of burnout in my life before, but I knew as it was happening that this was the real thing. If we'd stopped to sniff we probably could've smelt the burning.
But maybe we needed to burn out to realise that the philosophy we'd taken on board had insidiously replaced the freedom we experienced in Christ. After taking a good break over Christmas 2003, we realised God wanted us to get out of there.
And get out we did. We felt such a sense of relief, like we'd been released or spared from something. I actually felt a sense of guilt for some of the things I'd said, done or just gone along with. To be honest I have some tiny sense of what it must've been like to be a Nazi prison guard. To feel like what you're doing is right, even when your conscience is telling you no.
Okay, I'm getting off the point here. I'm talking about singing, right? Well, the song within me was one of the casualties of getting out.
And Mark - dear Mark, one of the closest friends I've ever had, yet someone whom I don't understand, nor does he really understand me - he told me "Don't stop singing."
So, all these months later, I remembered what he said on Saturday. And I sang. And I thought, Lord, please help me to make this a regular thing. I won't always be able to attend every week, but that doesn't mean I can't sing during the day, sing as I walk even. Well, maybe not as I walk...
Sometimes we have to disappear off the radar screen while God re-orients us. But the song rises again, pure and unlike it has ever been before.