We arrived late to a funeral at my childhood church so we sat in the back, beyond the pews and songbooks. The song leader was as I remembered, with a pitch pipe and do-me-sol. I was thrilled as I sang when the words came back to me, verse after verse. Songs like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Rock of Ages,” and “Peace, Perfect Peace.” Together with my clear singing voice and with the lyrics rising from my heart, I felt at home. I sang with freedom and truth. Yes, through the service there were moments of disquiet. But there were also profound moments of grace. “Amazing Grace” rose as the song of my heart when we gathered for the final goodbye at the graveside.
These are the songs of my heritage. I grew up in a small Mennonite church with four-part a capella singing. My alto voice was strong and sincere. Singing, for me, remains a significant part of worship and experiencing community. My voice and song is what I share.
During my 20s and 30s, in an overseas setting, I listened to music of groups like the Medical Mission Sisters, the Monks of Weston Priory, Michael Card, even Jesus Christ Superstar! The lyrics were fresh, an expression of faith that moved me. I prayed through music. I found words for the longings of my heart.
In time, I found the joy of singing in other languages: Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Spanish. “Besar Setiamu” touches my heart as much as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” What a foretaste of the grand choir of voices from every tribe and culture!
I ponder, could it be that everyone is created with their own inherent song of the heart? Listen to nature. Each bird, creature, insect, gurgling stream, even the rustling leaves sound different from species to species. I like to think that God gave each of us a song at conception! As humans it seems to take a lifetime to discover our songs and sing in freedom and truth. This is often a song without words; a welling up of love, desire, and lament. And at times there seems to be no song.
This is my reality. The Beloved is within. Out of this comes the song of my heart. Christ is part of all that I do and experience. Christ is the symphony and the cantata when my senses come alive with beauty and I lose myself in the moment. I shout to the sky and the sea. I am also quiet before the majesty of tall trees and sunsets.
Across the street, I see my friend loaded down with bags, clothes askew. She mutters to herself about life as she drags a red and swollen foot along. “Lord, have mercy” wells up in lament. These are the songs of my heart.
I reflect on the words of the refrain from a familiar hymn by Robert Lowry, written in 1869, “How Can I Keep from Singing”: “No storm can shake my inmost calm / while to that Rock I’m clinging. / Since love is Lord of heav’n and earth, / how can I keep from singing?”
The song of my heart is a love song, an expression of union with my Creator, Lord, and Savior. Therese of Lisieux wrote, “Only through love can I render myself pleasing to the Lord.” How can I keep from singing!