Joyful Noise(y)?

I am a loud singer.

If you know me at all, you probably already knew this. Growing up, my parents encouraged singing, throwing us kids wholeheartedly into choirs, musicales, and pre-meal choruses of the doxology. You could definitely say that I grew up singing.

On the flip side, I also heard a lot of “Abby, shut up!” from my parents and siblings alike throughout my childhood, and was probably the reason for the creation of the no-singing-at-the-dinner-table rule when I was five. When I was 16, I remember getting into a spat with my brother after standing next to him in church one sunday. He told me I was distracting the people around me by singing so loud and accused me of caring more about singing to draw attention to myself than for singing songs as a way of glorifying God. At the time, I was really hurt; his comments felt like an attack on how I praise God, which is very personal.

But, with time comes a little perspective to be able to re-evaluate criticisms, right? It is very important for me to clearly look through a critique and see if there is a foundation of truth to the critique that I should be listening to. I admire people who can take criticism in the moment and apply it. I am not usually one of those people. I get hurt feelings and, if forced to react in the moment, usually respond badly. Anyhow, you might be asking yourself why I am going into all of this right now. Well,  I have recently begun going to an awesome church, where the worship elements of the service have been a big blessing to me. One thing that keeps happening, though, is that I keep being approached at the end of the service by people who comment on loving my singing or telling me that me I have a “beautiful voice”. I am very flattered, but also left wondering if (A) my singing took away from their worship, and (B) if I should try to tone down my worship so that people would not be focusing on me in any way during the worship time.

A blogger named Heidi wrote about a loud worshiper experience in a blogpost I stumbled on the other day. She wrote:
“The so-not-my-type gentleman who ended up sitting next to me rose to sing, and SING he did!  People from three rows away turned to see who was free-styling the words to Amazing Grace.  I was waiting to see if he was going to bust out the jazz hands to complete his show.  I couldn’t make eye contact with him as I was embarrassed and afraid I would get a terrible case of the giggles.   He wasn’t completely pitchy, other than the few times he tried to hit the Christina Aguilera range.   He was just LOUD.  I compensated by whispering, then just mouthing the words he was belting out, and  eventually I stopped singing all together.
After the initial shock, I was somewhat amused and then a bit disappointed in myself.  If he felt moved to belt out worship music like it was a Glee show tune, then who was I to discourage him?  People have different levels of how they connect with God and this was clearly his thing.   It is so not mine, but maybe when I “mmmm” and nod along to the message, he is thinking, “What is wrong with that girl?  Why is she making cow noises in the middle of a sermon?”  To each his own.”
Well, Heidi’s post made me think even more. I mean, I love to sing, and I love to praise God with abandon using my voice. I hope that, if anything, people might react to an enthusiastic worshipper by being spurred on to a deeper level of worship themselves. Instead, although she came to a very kind conclusion in retrospect, the Glee-tastic worshiper caused Heidi to stop singing. I never want my singing, however well-motivated, to stop someone else from worshipping God.
So, I started looking into scripture. . .

Psalm 98

 Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 33:1-5

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Luke 19:37-40 

As he [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the LORD has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I guess the Bible doesn’t explicitly speak to my circumstance. . . the biggest command is simply to WORSHIP, rather than specifying a manner of worship. God wants sincere worship, whatever its quality may be. The point is not how we worship, but why. So maybe I need to be more aware of my loud singing as a way of loving those around me and being a help to them. Ultimately, though, as long as my singing is for the glory of God and for God alone, it is a right act of worship.

What do you think? I would love some other perspectives. . .

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One thought on “Joyful Noise(y)?

  1. I agree with the conclusion you’re approaching – it’s not the How, it’s the Why. Remember 2nd Samuel 6:12-23, where David is described as having danced and jumped around in the street, half-naked, caught up in complete joy and rapture at the return of the ark of the Lord to his city. This was certainly distracting and undignified – but it was pure worship, and no where does the text condemn him for it. In fact, after his wife scolded him for it, it’s written that she had no children to the end of her days – a serious indictment.

    It’s something to balance, for sure – if your singing loudly becomes something that you spend a lot of time worrying about, then that’s going to affect your worship as well, and perhaps being quieter would be better. On the other hand, if your being quieter affects your worship, than being louder may be better. In either case, the issue is why you’re doing what you are – whether it’s singing or dancing or jazz-hands-ing it up. If people have difficulty with it, that’s more on them than it is on you, provided you don’t develop a “I’m worshiping more purely than you are,” complex.

    I love the thought processes and this post! Sometimes I’ve been criticized for NOT dancing around and clapping my hands and such – and honestly, the reason I don’t is that, when I do, I get super distracted. I spend all my energy trying to make sure I’m clapping appropriately and wondering if I’m moving too much or not enough, or what people are thinking – and I lose focus on the Lord. I totally relate to your described inner dialogue, though from a different angle. 🙂

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