The notes that followed were notes he had never been taught, but that rang in him with a familiarity that brought tears to his eyes. …He played the song over and over, the notes purging him of all thoughts yet leaving him with a sense of fullness that welled in his eyes. He played until exhaustion tripped his fingers upon the strings; he stopped before the discordant notes shattered the delicate construction within him.
—By Ways Unseen, Chapter 4 - Remembrances
“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”—Psalm 33:3
“Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Ephesians 5:18b-20
I can’t sing. I mean, I can, and I do—but, badly. I can fiddle around on a 66-key keyboard I got for Christmas a long time ago (the music for the book trailers on this website, and for the audiobook of By Ways Unseen, is all done by me). I envy Haydren this scene; even though the music came to him somewhat preternaturally, he does possess the skill to play, and to call up a memory so powerful it brought him to tears.
It wasn’t until after I went to war that Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, and Hero of War by Rise Against, had much meaning to me; it wasn’t until after my son was born that The First Time (Ever I Saw Your Face), —for me, sung by Matt Cardle on The X Factor—nearly brought me to tears; and it wasn’t until I heard Sam Robson singing How Great Thou Art that I appreciated just how long someone can hold a note, and the power that can have at the right time.
I have a playlist on YouTube I’ve titled “Best of Talents” with all my favorite Talent Show competitors and my favorite songs they’ve sung. Usually what it does is make me wish I could sing, but if nothing else, it helps me understand the power of music. So it’s hard for me, when I can’t personally reproduce that power, to understand it as an act of worship. Sometimes I think my friend and worship leader (and worship leaders in general) take for granted that the exhortation by Paul in Ephesians is one they can obey, and people enjoy the results. I wish, sometimes, the Bible instructed worshipers to write a novel unto the Lord.
We all have instructions from Scripture that, because of our experiences, our personality, and God’s work in our lives, are easy to follow. We also all have instructions that seem impossible to follow, and the best we can do is struggle along for now, and understand why later. What we mustn’t do is think harshly of those who miss the marks that we personally find easy to hit.
To close, here’s a few words from that friend and worship leader, Tyler:
—Even if you cannot sing skillfully, keep singing. We are commanded to sing in scripture. Paul tells us to, “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Paul doesn’t include in the command the prerequisite that we sing well. Instead, he tells us to sing with our heart. So if that is the case, we should sing, and we should sing boldly and with exceeding joy. It doesn’t mean that others have to enjoy it, but they should see our joy in it [emphasis added—DD]. I recently lost a friend who was a LOUD singer…he was also tone deaf. I know that lots of folks say it can be difficult to sing loudly, boldly and with joy, if you cannot sing well. This guy proved that wrong. When this guy addressed others with spiritual songs making melody to the Lord, God was glorified and the believers around him were encouraged in the faith…does anything else matter?—