I Just Wish That I CouldI grew up in what people in my area call a “Church Door” family; if the church doors were open, we were there. With four kids (two boys, a tomboy, and a princess) I think my parents knew they needed all the help they could get. My mother in particular was, and is, a woman of remarkable faith, and she is also a woman of music. Our house was always filled with music of all kinds, pouring from an old record pla
Though my one-day-to-be-sainted mother loved music, especially old hymns, the unspoken truth in our home was that she couldn’t sing a lick. The words and rhythm were there, but the melody was left in a heap of twisted wreckage behind her. If she was aware of it, she never let on, and I can guarantee that no one living in our house would ever have the guts to mention it. My father also loved music, but he was apparently very aware of his vocal shortcomings. When it was time to stand and sing hymns in church, I always marveled at his ability to do so without ever actually moving his lips. He’d just close his eyes and hold the hymnal for my mother.
I suppose that, given what science now knows about the power of genetics, that it should come as no surprise to anyone that I, like my mother, love music, but have absolutely no ability to sing. As the old saying goes, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, even if you sealed it in with a lid. Unfortunately, at least for everyone but me, I spent the first 12 years or so of my life blissfully unaware of the severity of my tune-carrying shortcomings until it was brought to my attention in church one Sunday. My oldest friend John still loves to tell the story of my day of enlightenment, as he was standing there with me.
The morning service had ended, and we had wrapped up with a rousing rendition of “Just as I Am”, one of the most powerful, yet mournful hymns ever written, and still a favorite of mine to this day. As we stood there in the pews waiting to file out, one of the resident “Blue-Haired Saints” (as my friends and I secretly referred to the older spinster set in our congregation) turned around in the pew in front of us and gave me a kind look as she placed one tiny, white-gloved hand on my arm.
Looking at me with those tired but still lively eyes, sympathy painted over the gentle wrinkles of her face, she leaned close, patted my arm softly, and said, “Young man. I know your people, so I have no doubt you will turn out to be a fine man one day. The Lord blesses us all, and to each He gives many gifts. In time you’ll learn what He has given you, but until then, you may want to practice your humming.” And with that, she smiled a radiant smile, turned back to her blue-haired sisters, and rejoined a lively debate over where they were going for lunch.
I still sing old hymns, but I am merciful and restrict my performances to the shower or the confines of my car. I do, however, hum a mean version of “Amazing Grace.”