Lots of people don’t sing at church. I’d venture to say most people don’t. Maybe you don’t.
I can’t begin to tell you what you’re missing.
I’ll begin anyway…
A few years ago I lived in Brooklyn, and in the summers the city would host outdoor movies on a giant screen under the Brooklyn Bridge. One night Justin and I picked up a pizza and hauled our blanket down to the bridge to watch The Wizard of Oz.
The Manhattan skyline stretched out behind the movie, purples and pinks lingering in the darkening sky. The title screen appeared; the crowd cheered. At the moment when Dorothy begins her journey to the Emerald City, the crowd turned chorus.
Suddenly, Justin and I and a few hundred New Yorkers were singing, “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz”. The hipsters beside me sang. The old lady in front of me sang. All of us sang.
In that moment I felt a powerful, palpable connection with the people around me. I didn’t know any of them. But here we were, together.
That’s what happens when you sing in worship. But more. Better.
When people, different in color and taste, personality and position sing together on a Sunday morning, when they sing-speak the same words in the same second, lifting high the name of the same Savior, they agree and affirm and commingle.
When I sing and you sing we’re saying to one another, in small part, “I’m with you.”
I once worshipped with 13,000 people, and it was like standing on a battlefield in a sea of soldiers, none of us alone, all of us one under one all-powerful Commander. The song-sound swelled until it was so loud and full I couldn’t distinguish my own voice from any other.
When we sing together in worship, we BELONG.
My husband Justin wrote about singing a few years back on his blog. He said:
Scientists tell us that approximately 5400 species of animals sing: humpback whales, pigmy blue whales, dolphins, gibbons, Mexican Freetail bats, certain tree frogs, and of course, birds—well over 5,000 different species in all.
But of all the animals that sing, apparently not one lives on the ground. It seems every singing animal lives either in trees or in the ocean.
Researchers believe the reason for this is that singing requires security. Singing makes an animal’s presence known—not just to allies, but to enemies. Though they aren’t perfect, tree canopies and ocean environments tend to be more secure than their terrestrial counterparts. Because they are, their inhabitants feel safe enough to sing.
He adds that humans are the single exception to this rule.
I was thinking about this tonight, thinking about how essential security is to song.
Most of us don’t sing in front of strangers. We sing with people we love. People who won’t insult us or embarrass us or stare at us or surreptitiously film us and put the footage on Youtube.
Singing with others is an act of trust.
When we don’t sing, it often springs from an unwillingness to be vulnerable—that’s what excuses like “I’m not good at it” and “I don’t feel comfortable” boil down to—but as Dr. Brenee Brown says, “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
What’s ironic is that we often don’t sing because we don’t want to be singled out, because we worry that our lack of talent will draw unwanted attention and separate us from the group. So we play it safe and stay silent. And in playing it safe we miss the very thing we so desperately want: belonging.
If you want to connect, you need to take a risk and sing.
When you sing with your family, you sing with people who sing with you, people who don’t care if you sound like Whitney Houston or William Hung, people who’ll cover your vulnerability with the gift of their participation and partnership.
David, psalmist and king, sang these words a long, long time ago, and today, urging you to take a risk, I repeat them:
“Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.”
Together. Let’s sing.