Thinking Out Loud

February 6, 2020

Beholder

Filed under: Christianity, guest writer — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:27 am

by Ruth Wilkinson

It was hot.

I was tired.

That’s my excuse.

Late night, mid-summer. I was at camp, volunteering for the week and relaxing on a bench outside the main meeting room. The hall was well lit and I sat in darkness under an open window. Perfect for a little eavesdropping.

Staff were slowly coming and going as they found free time, but two in particular caught my attention. They were at the piano facing the open window by which I sat and their voices carried out to me. His camp name is Meatloaf. I have no idea why. He was senior staff that summer and played and sang in the praise band each morning. Her camp name is Joy for reasons which are obvious immediately on meeting her. She is legally deaf and wears two hearing aids that allow the rest of us to talk with her without having to learn her second language, ASL. Her experience of music is as much felt as heard and its expression more signed and danced than sung.

He had his guitar slung over his shoulder and had placed a chord chart in front of her as she sat at the piano. He showed her the names of the keys and told her to hit each note as he sang the word that was beneath it. They slowly progressed, haltingly, clumsily. He strummed a few bars, then stopped to show her which key to hit. She hit each in turn and held it ‘til he showed her the next. They worked through the song a couple of times, then laughingly gave up on it and he had to leave.

Joy stayed at the piano and began to play random collections of notes. No tune, no chords, just sounds. Then she started to sing. “O God, I love you! I worship you! Jesus, you are wonderful! I praise you, Lord!…” The notes she sang bore only occasional and coincidental relationship to the ones her fingers played. Her loud words carried the slur of the deaf speaker.

It had been a very long, hot day. I was looking for peace and quiet. I wasn’t enjoying what I heard, and began to wonder how long she was going to keep it up—“the noise,” as I thought.

That was when God smacked me on the back of the head, as he sometimes has occasion to do.

She’s not singing for you,” He whispered. “You don’t know what she sounds like from here.”

____

That half hour sitting in the dark has stayed with me because I learned two things:

The first: What grace looks like. Here were two people showing each other grace. Two people approaching common ground from vastly different directions. Two people with hugely divergent experiences and expressions of one and the same thing, trying to join forces to do something they both loved. Granted, what they produced was not going to hit the Top Ten any time soon, but as they patiently and graciously tried–as they gave each other space in a place they both occupied–it was beautiful.

The second: What worship sounds like. Joy wasn’t singing for me. She wasn’t singing for herself. She was singing because God has placed in each of us the need and the means to express what he’s shown us. Granted, the music I make when I play or sing should be my best. God deserves no less than that. But when I think that’s best isn’t as good as mine, I have forgotten that I don’t know “what it sounds like here.” Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. Joy is in the heart of the Listener.

1 Comment »

  1. Boom. That was the sound of me being knocked up the side of the head. Thank you Ruth

    Comment by dgraceofgod — February 6, 2020 @ 12:42 pm


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