Most of the time I feel torn between commitments, between things I think I should be doing and things I might want to do. Or, more often, torn between the plurality of things I think I should be doing. There just never seems to be enough time. This morning, I am facing a lot of deadlines. It’s a Sunday morning. Which means Mass. Do I stay “in” and try to work my way through the pile of stuff before I have to go to work? Or…do I finish one thing real quick and just dash out, minimally prepared, and go to church?
I finished the one thing real quick and dashed out to Mass.
And I sang in church for the first time in right about a year.
My church is a lovely little Episcopalian church in the Central West End of St. Louis. It’s where I landed when I got called back “home” from wandering a couple of years ago. I love the Anglo-Catholic “smells & bells” stuff, the incense, the beautiful vestments, the glorious music, and the ritual. I also love the way the traditional and “liberal” co-mingle, living, breathing, and evolving every time we all come together. But last year, after a near death experience, I found that all of this was just too much. I stopped singing. Eventually, for various reasons, I stopped attending Mass and pretty much dropped out of most of my life.
I didn’t just stop singing in church. I stopped singing. It was as though I just couldn’t do it. And I quit dancing. This summer my life has started to flow again, in fits and starts, and I have come back to dancing. But the singing still eluded me. A couple of months ago, a man who has become very dear to me shared a song with me. I sat listening to it in my apartment and felt moved to sing along…but found that no sound would come out of my mouth. I just sat there crying, tears streaming down my face. When I emailed my friend back and told him about my experience, he came back with a response that touched me, and continues to touch me, very deeply. He said,”I’ve heard some people say that dancing is just singing with your body, so you may be closer to it than you think…so I guess I am saying keep immersing yourself in music and it will start leaking out more easily and you will find your voice.”
There are certain people in my life with whom I can trace back and know the moment I first knew I loved them. This was one of those moments with this friend. The way that he listened and heard me and the way that he chose to respond to what was, I think, underneath my words, touched me profoundly. Then and now.
So, this morning, I dashed off to church and chose to sit with with someone instead, as I generally do, by myself. Mary is a lovely woman and a beautiful soprano.
And I sang in church. For real.
Mary and I both ended up crying after one of the hymns. I reached over to squeeze her hand and she whispered back to me, “Sometimes the Spirit just flows out of my eyes…”
The Spirit flowing out of my eyes. And I remembered the words of my first priest a couple of years ago on the subject of crying in church (or crying in general). She said that tears are considered a charism in Eastern Orthodox churches. It’s a spiritual gift. I remembering being struck by the notion when she told me and I had forgotten about it in the interim. And as the service went on, and now, after it’s ended, I find myself thinking of the Spirit flowing and wondering where else it might be flowing in my life. Where is it flowing, what is it doing and where have I discounted it or misrecognized it. Where am I disdaining it?
There was a descant in the final hymn and, in the last two verses, Mary sang it. I have a love affair with the word “descant” for some reason, I just love it. The sound, the meanings, just the notion of a treble melody played above the basic melody is so symbolic for me. It was a beautiful way to end the service.
The lessons and the sermon were about the effect, the impact, of a “call” on our lives. How is my life different because I feel myself “called”? How is what I am doing, how am I living, impacted by my sense that I am being led by the Spirit? How do I experience my education, my art, dance, music, beauty, my relationships, love, being happy…if I sense that the Spirit is leading me into places and interfacing with me in particular ways? Is it only a call if I perceive it as “serious”? Am I called to be happy? Is the “egg song” when I laugh the Spirit flowing…? (More on the “egg song” in a later post, just suffice to say that, if you really hear me laughing, my laughter will be punctuated by a sound that is strikingly reminiscent of the sound a chicken makes just after it’s laid an egg. One of my clients recently called this the “egg song”.)
Is my relationship with certain people in particular an expression of the Spirit flowing, somehow, in both our lives and bringing us together? Does being in relationship produce the flow of Spirit?
Too much…I wish that this Spirit thingy had a better sense of timing. I tend to be overcome by it when I have no time to process….
And as I write those words, I hear a wren outside my window and it reminds me of the first morning I was at my friend’s place and and heard a wren singing there, a descant melody above what has become the basic song of my life.
** Addendum: It’s funny, sometimes, coming back to a painting or blog entry after the moment has cooled and my “rational brain” (or somebody else’s) kicks in. It was gently pointed out to me the evening I wrote this piece that I’ve dated the painting “9 September 2015”. Which it wasn’t…At least not in the “rational” world. It was the 13th. The original’s been corrected but I’m going to leave the digital version here as it was when I posted.
(© Karen Opp. All rights reserved.)