Sunday, October 14, 2012

Singing My Song

I have a hard time with singing.  My parents I guess wanted us to learn to sing, but they only contributed to a deep shame and fear of singing that I carry to some degree to this day.  They would liberally criticize our singing and if we were off tune, would have us sing solo at family devotions "so we would learn it".

Now I've never really noticed that having to sing solo helped.  We learn by singing along with.

Anyway, I was most often ridiculed and even disciplined for my lack of singing ability.  One time sticks in my head.  My husband was in our house - now he was a just a teen that I was really, really interested in at that time - and we were singing.  I had messed up (again), so they told me to stand up and sing it solo so I would learn to do it right.

Ok, there only is one thing more embarrassing than having to sing a solo when you can't sing, and that is to have to sing it in front of your boyfriend while people either glared or laughed at you.  By this time I was thirteen, and I had had enough!  Really enough.

I decided that I was going to stop this here and now.  I gambled that they would not spank me here - not in front of this teen they were discipling.... and if they did, it wouldn't be that bad of a spanking.... so I was going to say no.  I simply said no.  I was threatened, but I said no again.  Quietly.  I didn't want to defy authority really, but I was simply done being belittled that I couldn't sing.  I said no.

I was right - they didn't spank me in front of guests for that, and I had won my freedom.  Never again was I publicly asked to sing solo because I couldn't sing.  I was still ridiculed but only in comments.  "You can't carry a tune in a bucket."  "If you sang, people would pay you to stop."

At some point, I decided to stop singing.  If I was so bad that people would run screaming, I just was not going to sing.  I began to only mouth words in church and never sing.  I went through three years of Bible school like that.  I got asked to leave a mandatory choir when I simply would not open my mouth to sing for the choir director.  (I babysat for the choir instead.  I am good at babysitting.)  My friends told me I can't go through life without singing, but I was determined.  I would not be ridiculed again.

Years later, God asked me when I was going to sing to Him, and I told Him when I have my first child, I will begin to sing.  Later, after my first daughter died and I had more boys and never another girl, I told God that if I had a daughter, I would even sing when I taught kids Sunday school.  I would even sing in public.

My first son was born.... he was perfect.  And I opened my mouth and began to sing to him.  I even opened my mouth and began to sing in church because God reminded me of my promise.  I still couldn't sing and tried to maneuver in church to sit in front of a strong singer so I could follow along and behind an empty space so no one would have to suffer for hearing me. But I sang.

The years went by and I grew more confident, but never relaxed about singing.  Only in the car with only my kids would I sing loudly and fearlessly.  I figured I was off key, but I gave birth to them - they have to endure me.  They sang loudly and cheerfully alongside of me.  In fact, they thought I sounded great!  But what would they know.

Then my son, the one like me, joined choir in high school.  Choir?!  As in sing in public?  I wanted to tell him that he can't sing - we're no good at that, don't you know?  But I was silent.  I told him to go ahead. He did.  He sings ok.  Even decent.

Today, in church, I stood there happily singing.  Next to me was my son with his deep strong voice singing with all his heart.  And I sang along.  As I sang, I thought something.

He's easy to sing with.  His voice is like mine.

You see, my mom sings with a warbling soprano.  My voice is a low alto.  All these years, she had been trying to get me to sing like her.  I will never sing soprano, let alone a warbling one!  I am the deep voice, the shadow, the quiet pool, not the bubbling brook.  It was a friend who let me understand that.  I told her I don't sing because I sing horribly.  She teaches music, and she said, "you don't sing badly - you just sing a low alto.  You just have to learn to sing your own song."

I can't say that I believed her.  Not totally.  But I thought about it.  I stopped trying to sing the high part.  I don't sing the ladies section of songs anymore.  I can't. But it wasn't until I heard my son's voice that I understood.  He's got a beautiful voice.  But it is deep.  He can sing his section - deep and strong.  When he giggles and tries to sing the other parts, he sounds horrible.

I just needed to learn to sing my song, not someone else's.

And you know what - I actually can sing.  I sing ok.  My son and I sing together, and I smile.  This is what I was created to do - sing low and deep, and I like singing now.  Once in a blue moon, you'll even catch me singing all alone, quietly, in public while I work.

I promised God that I would sing when my son was born.  I didn't know that it was my son who would give me my voice back.

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