In the waning moments before one of our recent snow events, I went to the grocery story to buy the essentials. Others may go for milk and bread. I go for cookie dough, ice cream, and cereal.
Even though I knew it was unlikely that I would be the only one in the store, I wasn’t prepared for the crowds that filled each aisle.
Or for the long lines at each of the checkout lanes.
Or for the large percentage of folks who had no self-awareness and apparently had never steered a grocery cart before.
It was chaos.
And every face seemed to scream: “I am near my limit! Do not get in my way!”
I knew the look. I was wearing it too.
But people still chose to get in my way.
And I kept getting more agitated and frustrated and just when I was about to lose it, a song sprang up from somewhere deep inside me.
You know how it is when I song takes hold of you. It won’t stop.
The song trapped within me kept knocking so forcefully that I had to let it go. I couldn’t help myself.
I started to sing quietly, although the glances told me it wasn’t as quiet as I thought.
But I kept singing my way through the swirling chaos, a song from Taizé on my lips:
“In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful.
In the Lord, I will rejoice.
Look to God. Do not be afraid.
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.
Lift up your voices the Lord is near.”
I noticed a few things as I continued my shopping among the desperate crowd.
Agitation and despair lost their grip on me and joy drew near.
And singing out loud apparently scares people enough to make them move out of your way.
I became almost giddy with delight. And it hit me that I had been so miserable just a few moments before, until that song took hold of me.
So I started to sing a bit louder. Passing cart after cart, smiling as I went, repeating the same phrase over and over again, “In the Lord, I’ll be ever thankful, in the Lord I will rejoice….”
And I didn’t stand still long enough to see what people were thinking or how they were reacting. I just wanted to give them a hint of a song. And I wanted them to hear the song sounding inside of them.
I am trying to remember that night. As I shoveled far too much snow the next morning and the frustration kicked in, I started to sing somewhere deep inside me.
Whenever I sit in front of a blank computer screen and get so frustrated when the words for Sunday’s sermon won’t come, I start tapping out the rhythm of hope.
Whenever I fret about whether or not the ties which bind us together are stronger than the things which threaten to pull us apart, I imagine a song the whole world can sing, in perfect harmony.
Chaos will keep surrounding us. We will all have to keep on doing hard things. We will all have disappointments and losses which threaten to break our spirits.
A friend of mine once described our lives well, writing, “Every person I know lives inside some kind of constraints. Each of us is closed up inside some limits that we’d run from if we could but we can’t. Each of us is pressed by some memories that we wish we didn’t have but we do. There is light that each of us wishes we had, but we don’t.”
So what do we do with all of that? We could play the role of victim, or we could simply numb ourselves from the pain.
Or, we could, right from the place where we are—the place with its limits—start to sing. We could pour out our hope, our passion, our joy, our gifts, our very lives that we have to God.
“My life flows on in endless song. Above earth’s lamentations. I hear the real, though far-off song, that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging. Since love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”