My senior year of high school I stood in the choir room with the rest of our senior chamber choir. It was the early in the year and even though we had all auditioned and were considered the "elite" singers, we weren't sounding so great. A little more like nails on a chalkboard, actually. We were singing the right notes for the most part, but our voices were just not blending. It was that song. I don't remember what the song was now, but I remember I didn't like it and was annoyed as we rehearsed it again.
By this time everyone was feeling annoyed with this particular song and annoyed that our choir director Mrs. Doxy (but we just called her Nina) was still insisting that we perform it. Nina, stopped us in the middle of one refrain and we all breathed a sigh of relief when she said to leave our music and follow her. She led us into the auditorium and asked us all to stand in circles according to our sections: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Then after a stern lecture about appropriate behavior and all the giggling and obnoxious remarks quieted she turned off all the lights and had us sing the song again.
In the pitch-black, without our music, without the piano, we were forced to focus our attention on only what we could hear. On each other. We sang the refrain again. I was surprised how much better it sounded. After a couple more times the harmonies were beginning to really come together and our voices blended beautifully.
Nina turned on the lights again and asked us to stand in one big circle, facing each other. Before she turned off the lights again she said something that would completely change my thinking. She told us that when each voice sang in perfect harmony and with the right acoustics something incredible happens.
“There is music that sometimes can be heard above the notes being played or sung. I've heard them called by many names” Nina said reverently, “overtones, phantom voices, ghost harmonies…angels. You can't always hear them, but sometimes, when every chord, every voice is in perfect pitch and harmony you can hear them singing above the chorus, notes that no human voice or man made instrument could ever imitate.”
We sang the passage again and this time through the blackness of that auditorium our voices blended, moved, soared. We held the final chord. Listening. Tuning. And then...I heard Them. Faint, yet clear as bells above the sound of the choir. These heavenly voices so high and pure seemed to whisper their approval in our moment of perfect harmony by joining in and adding to our song, notes yet unnamed and unreachable by human voices. I blinked back the tears as Nina turned the lights back on and ushered our silent group back to the choir room.
From that moment on this song changed for me. I loved it now. But of course the song hadn't changed at all! It was the same notes I'd been singing the whole time. My perspective had changed. I've been thinking about this experience lately. I'm getting a little metaphoric, but for me at least, it makes life's experiences a little easier to understand.
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with our song of life. We're unhappy with the melody, the rhythm, the overall feel of it. We're annoyed with how things are sounding and just want to pick a different song. But, unlike trading out one sheet of music for another, we can't always immediately change our circumstances. I wish all the best-laid plans and good intentions turned out the way we envisioned them. That everyday was as picturesque as a postcard.
I wish. But in the same breath I'm grateful that life's not that way. It won't always be pretty. It won't be perfect. How would we ever know just how beautiful our unique song is if we never were challenged to close our eyes, block out everything else, focus on the other voices whom we choose to harmonize with? Really listen. Get in tune. Tune our hearts.
Sometimes what we really need is for God to turn out the lights. It can be scary, not seeing what's in front of us, but sometimes it's the darkness that enables us to focus on the notes of our song. Focus on what we have. And then...we hear Them and suddenly our song is beautiful again. Not because our circumstances changed, but because we did.