The Beatles were the thing back then. We kids in the neighborhood would gather around the record player and sing along at the top of their lungs. One day, in the midst of a powerful concert in the living room of one family, one kid looked up at me and said, “You can’t sing.”
Not many things crush the spirit of someone as much as being told you can’t do something you think you’re pretty good at and enjoy doing. A thousand fears ran through my mind. A judgmental chain was hung around my vocal cords. I, who had felt the freedom to let it rip, now was afraid to even hum.
One comment, made by one stupid kid—who had no basis for his opinion but personal preference—shut me down. From then on my public display of delight was over. I had been told my expressions were unacceptable.
How many other statements have we heard that have shut us down? You shouldn’t think that. You’re wrong. You can’t feel that way. How stupid! I knew that would happen if you tried that. I told you you’d fail. You’re going to do what? Stop crying! Maybe you’ll grow out of it. What were you thinking?
Words have great power over us. They get trapped inside our heads and play back at the most inopportune times. Like when we try singing in public again. We’re all prepared, listening to our introduction, ready to share our song, and some kid’s words flash through our mind.
If it works that way in natural matters, how about spiritual ones? Satan is the punk kid telling us lies that discount the faithfulness of God. He reminds us of past struggles, unanswered prayers, unsuccessful resistance to temptations, dark times, unquenched sorrows. He points out disappointments where things just didn’t seem to turn out for good. All in an attempt to keep us from trusting God.
I don’t know how good I ever became at singing. I still struggle at times. But what that kid said in his living room doesn’t stop me anymore. I’ve decided the joy of singing trumps the fear of singing badly. Now, though there may be an audience, I sing to express my deeper joy, not to gain their approval.
Joy is our expression of our confidence in the faithfulness of God. It is not a performance to please a suspicious observer or to demonstrate how good we are at being a Christian. Joy is a statement of what’s going on inside of us. It is our statement, not up for the criticism of others as to whether we are expressing it appropriately or not. So let it rip.
Question: Have you ever sung as though no one was listening?