It doesn’t matter what you sound like, just sing to God with the voice God gave you
If you were to walk past my house on a weekday afternoon, you’d more than likely hear the musical stylings of my 8-year-old son, who is learning to play the trumpet. Louis Armstrong he is not. Sometimes he lets out a note so shrill, it is not unlike a call to battle from one of the Lord of the Rings films. It sends shivers up my spine as I cut vegetables for dinner. I look over at him, his cheeks pink with glee, completely oblivious to the sudden barrage of barking dogs in our neighborhood, and I can’t help but think to myself, “Make a joyful noise!”
In the psalms we are told:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing. (Psalm 100:1-2)
We are commanded to worship the Lord with joy and happiness. When I come to the Lord, it’s often with a to-do list or complaints, not joy and happiness.
The psalm goes on to say that God made us, we belong to him. We are to joyfully thank him for our very existence — because we certainly didn’t make ourselves.
Well, you’ve got me there.
And I don’t even say thank you?
My ego invades my thoughts. I’m just not a great singer anymore. As a teen, I would sing with church choir, in musical theater shows, at the mall goofing around with my friends — but now my voice has grown tired, uncontrolled. Yet I look at my son and the absolute joy in his noise and I remember, “The Lord looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
A couple years ago, at St. James Cathedral for Mass, a man next to me pulled out a hair comb, placed a piece of tissue paper over it, and started playing it along with the hymn of praise. Its sound vibrated through me like some sort of otherworldly kazoo until I realized tears of joy were streaming down my face. At the end of Mass, I thanked him. This man’s unabashed noise to God was such a blessing to me that I still think about it, years later. I can only imagine what it sounded like to God’s ears.
Theologian Jakob Böhme once said, “We are all strings in the concert of God’s joy.” I think of my son, that hair-comb musician, or my 90-year-old friend who could not remember the names of her family members but would join in merrily anytime she heard the Gloria.
We find joyful noises in unexpected places — these vibrations of glory, which not only bring praise to God, but speak volumes to his people as we listen to the concert of joy.
Sitting in slow-moving traffic on I-5 one day, I feel myself growing tense, and then I hear in my heart, “Put on your Sunday mix.” I’ve made a Spotify playlist with all my favorite hymns, and even secular songs that sound like prayers to me. I decide to spend the time in worship instead of frustration, press play and turn up the volume. For the next 45 minutes, instead of honking my horn and slapping my steering wheel in exasperation, I sing my heart out to “Jubilate Deo” and “All Creatures of Our God and King,” and also with praises by U2 or Johnny Cash. If anyone else were in the car with me, they’d hear my wobbly voice and how I sometimes change keys within the same chorus — but the driver in the car next to me looks over, sees my cheeks pink with glee and laughs as we catch eyes. I imagine this is how
God sees me, making my joyful noise in worship to him.
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a member of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral Parish. Her website is shemaiahgonzalez.com.
Northwest Catholic - May 2018