In this new place in me, there is room to sing. For how long have I longed just to sing? The words of one of our anthems comes from the Psalms, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2). The beauty is breath-taking when our leader instructs in different parts. The sopranos take a break for a moment, and I get to hear the sound of the altos, basses and tenors. They sound amazing, as there are so many twists and turns in the complicated arrangements of the songs. Our leader is enchanting and speaks highly of the writers and arrangers of the music, some of which are friends of his. He celebrates the achievements of his colleagues, and does not show the least hint of jealousy, too abundant in spirit to be envious of anyone else. When he demonstrates how the songs are to be sung, I see the timber of his voice is highly trained and beautiful in its own right.
The problems in the execution of the music are tackled in sections, but not ignored. I draw an internal analogy with the larger church body. If we could take a moment away from the song and dance to communicate with one another, to give time to the weak parts and moments, the end result could be fantastic. Our conductor gives deep insights into the science of sound from a place of rejoicing in the sharing of such reflections. When the sopranos join in, I am proud of my ease now after practice, in hitting the highest notes, which some have commented are unusually high. I hear my own voice ringing through the ensemble that we all are, and wonder if some sopranos have backed out, thereby proving that I have made a needed contribution using my gifts, and my place here is solidified. This was what I wanted in the first place. It was all I desired when I had visited and become a member of different churches for a time, asking to be included in the worship team which was awkwardly always missing the high notes. I wanted so badly simply to be included, and had so much to offer, but they refused, out of deficit and need, I assume.
I looked around the very large choir and was determined to see people, to see faces, and not just a swarm of older than average choir folks. I saw when I looked closer ladies, older, but alone like me. Some even seemed sad. I know they must have felt as I did, relieved to be included. I smiled when one lady looked my way, and received a detached half-hearted response. While in the presence of these souls, I took great effort to be hospitable. I knew their hurt and their need, for it was present in me as well. I talked to a few ladies as we made our way toward the exit door, and found they had traveled from as far as an hour away. Together we spoke in praise of the choir, the conductor, and the music.
After the night was over and people shuffled into cars, I walked to my own car and found my roller-blades in the back seat and put them on to venture through the quiet, excitement latent streets of Ocean Grove. I went past the shops on main street and crossed over to “pilgrim pathway” which lead to the Great Auditorium. I took a close look at the little park outside the building. This is where I would be putting together a little worship group, if I could find others to agree to join me on Sundays. Though my previous church would not have allowed it, and would have reprimanded me as being out of order, it seemed that the powers that be in Ocean Grove were more humble and free, and therefore my vision could have a chance of coming into fruition. This call to worship is something I sensed the spirit leading me into as a way of purifying the hearts of us His children, and separating His kingdom on this earth from those non Christian forces beginning to make their way over from Asbury Park.
As I roller-bladed up the long sidewalk headed toward the beach, I began to reflect mournfully on a day when my previous church had a service in the pavilion. Instead of feeling light and free in this moment, due to this memory, I felt bogged down. A vague reflection impressed itself upon me of a group of insiders at my church who were also there to hear the message on the beach one day. I recall none of them spoke to me or acknowledged me. Due to the hurt I felt at that time, I was slightly overwhelmed by something I must eventually process through.
The weather in Ocean Grove was beautiful last night, the moon was large and reflected gloriously on the large span of Ocean. People walked around and there was a sense of abundance and affluence in the air. However, this reverie was blocked in my spirit by the pain of recalling when I was not good enough for the friends I longed to fit in with. Due to my individuality which I ventured to celebrate by roller-blading and singing, as I did this evening, I had been mocked and scorned. My uniqueness was the source of tyranny toward my spirit. A moment of opposition and ridicule from others so bad the hurt still lingered.
My sister was like that. She always despised me for being so different. She constantly chided me for being over-weight which paradoxically made my weight problem worse. Being myself, nonetheless has always been the answer for me, and conformity has not. I could never kill all that wanted to live within me just because the majority in a given church culture (or in my own family) insisted that I live unto some other ill-defined ideal which they had collectively agreed to.
On the ride home I talked to God as I often do. I listened close to His spirit within me. I reconfirmed my resolve to not listen to the hurtful voices inside which constantly questioned whether my identity in Him was enough. I would not listen to anything that doubted my faith and Christianity. I certainly refused to question whether my Father God in heaven loved me, and whether His love was enough to take care of all my needs, the emotional ones as well as the physical. It was, as it always had been, His great love which would heal all the pain from others I had wanted to love and be loved by, to lead me to somehow get all that love and more from Him instead.