A few months ago the choir I sing in was performing at a church a little over an hour from where I live. This was our big event of the semester. We had been practicing for a long time, and had several songs to share to the congregation. Expectations were high.
During our sound check, I noticed pretty quickly that something was wrong.
If you’ve ever sung in a choir, or any type of singing group, or even if you haven’t done that but you just have common sense, you probably realize that being able to hear yourself is kind of a big deal. The church itself had horrible acoustics, meaning we couldn’t naturally hear ourselves, and we had no monitors to rely on to do it for us. To top it off, the accompanist was playing from a piano way off to the left and the sound just wasn’t carrying.
We shot up a prayer for God to bless our performance. My director calmly told us to just watch him for our cues, and I guess we were just going to hope for the best at that point.
The church service started, and we sang our first song. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that it wasn’t so great. But we got through it. We sang a couple more, and I just got more and more upset as we went. I couldn’t hear the piano, not really. Maybe a few downbeats here and there. I couldn’t hear anybody very well except those closest to me. I watched my director for the rhythm, but what I saw didn’t match what I could hear from the piano, like there was a delay for the sound to get to us.
It was a mess! And then, oh, horror upon horrors, we sang our a cappella song. In our practices, we had enough trouble just staying on pitch! Now, here we were, pianoless, acousticless, and doomed.
By the time the song was over, we were flatter than a panini that has been run over repeatedly by a car.
And I was angry. How could I find joy in singing after we had just made fools of ourselves in front of an entire congregation, not to mention people streaming it on the internet? I stalked off the stage, wincing as Jonny told me it could have been worse. I ended up in the lobby waiting to go into the dining area where the potluck lunch was being prepared.
That’s when God decided to remind me that this church performance was, surprisingly, not about me.
An older gentleman came up to me and shook my hand. He said something along the lines of, “Your choir did such a great job. Such beautiful music! I hope you come back soon. I was so blessed this morning by your voices.” I wondered if the guy was tone deaf.
Not two minutes later, a little girl came up to me and said, “You guys are so talented!” Was this a church full of tone deaf persons? “I hope my choir can sound as good as you at our Christmas program next week. I’m so nervous! But I saw how you all performed for God, and I’ll think of that when we sing.”
This stopped me. I had been so angry and embarrassed and caught up in the details that I had forgotten why I joined the choir in the first place. I’ve always seen God most strongly performing on a stage. I don’t know exactly why, maybe because going on stage is so terrifying that it leaves me no choice but to place everything in God’s hands. And that day I had forgotten that I wasn’t singing to make myself look good, I was singing to glorify my God.
We prayed that God would bless our performance, and I don’t know if he plugged the congregation’s ears, or stuck some singing angels in front of our choir and muted our vocal chords, but he took our horrible, ugly, imperfect, human gift to him and made it something beautiful.
God loves our gifts to him, the use of our talents, because it is one way that we can show our love for him. It’s like if your kid gives you an ugly drawing of yourself. Do you crush it into a ball and throw it away, saying, “This is a horrible representation of me! I don’t have blue hair, and my feet are not just lines. Come back when you have a Van Gogh.” Of course not! You would happily accept the drawing and stick it on your fridge so everyone could see just how much your kid loves you.
The whole experience made me realize that our gifts to God don’t have to be perfect. Actually, if we waited until we had a perfect gift to give God, he would never get anything because we’re all just about as off tune on the inside as my choir was at that church. 1 Corinthians 8:12 says, “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” Our pitch may have been lacking, but our hearts were in the right place. And that’s the kind of gift God wants from you.
Stephanie Wilczynski has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. She is pursuing an MA in English and Religious Education at Andrews University.