Thankful (even for the dreaded tambourine)

by Kristin on November 23, 2009

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by pa1nt

I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I like myself far more than I dislike myself. I guess it can take a while to get there, can’t it?

Although I’m no longer stuck in that cramped, uncomfortable love-hate place with myself, I still manage to dismay myself from time to time. Even at church, no less, where you would think I’d be on my best behavior!

A not-so-pretty behind-the-scenes look at me

I’d rather not get into the nitty-gritty here, so I’ll just stick to the basics. I help lead the music at our church about once a month, and let’s just say that I’m fairly particular about music. There are songs I don’t like—theologically, musically or both—and tempos that feel wrong. I’m picky about sound quality and balance, particularly because I sing harmony and play viola by ear, so I need to be able to hear what’s going on. And…I have issues with the tambourine. I’ll leave it at that.

Usually in these situations, I manage to monitor my opinions, control my tongue and choose my battles. But yesterday morning, when I arrived early at church to practice with the others, everything rubbed me the wrong way at once. I got it in my head that I needed to communicate my thoughts. I started with just one, but once I put myself out there, I couldn’t stop. I had to share it all (well, I did manage to keep a few opinions to myself).

Guess what came next? That’s right—I felt terrible. I hated myself for acting like my opinions matter so much, and for sharing them so bluntly. I hated the attitude I had put on, like expressing my opinions was some great gift for all the other people who were thinking the same thing but were too nice and considerate to speak up. And then there was the whole “I’m only doing this to make worship less distracting and more worshipful for everyone here” excuse in the back of my mind. Maybe that’s true in part, but of course I was really thinking about myself more than anyone else.

It’s depressing. The very things that I often like most about myself—that I have ideas and opinions and am able to articulate them—can so quickly turn into the things I like least about myself. Why can’t I be kinder and gentler? Why can’t I be more flexible and less sure about what I think is right?

Repentance, grace and all kinds of thanksgiving

This story takes a good turn, though. I apologized to the others who were leading worship with me. We prayed together for the service, and it went really well. I felt the Spirit moving in that place. I even gave my all when we sang the song I don’t like, and I liked it more than I ever have.

After our initial set of music, our pastor began his Thanksgiving teaching, which led into three different people sharing their own versions of gratitude. We gathered around a man who is a devoted volunteer at our soup kitchen and was recently baptized, and we gave thanks for him. Then a woman who is a wonderful, humorous storyteller, shared her experience wrestling with what God has recently been trying to tell her. Then a man who in the 1970s played drums with jazz and blues greats became a one-man blues band, expressing his thanksgiving through percussion, bugle and voice.

To be honest, it was a crazy worship service, in the most wonderful, eclectic of ways. And I was truly filled with thanksgiving. Not just because I have a church community who accepts and forgives me in all my faults, and still wants to have me around (although that is huge). I am also so very thankful that not everyone is just like me. They look different and have their own way of experiencing the world. They tell their stories and express gratitude in different ways.

And yes, they can even be deeply moved by songs that don’t move me, played in a way I wouldn’t have chosen. That’s a beautiful thing.

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  • http://leadingchurch.com Paul Vander Klay

    The tambourine? Makes me think of the groovy hippie chicks on the Josie and the Pussy Cats 70s cartoon! (For those of you too young to appreciate that cultural reference http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjEt8uUPbig) :)

  • Carmen

    We need video of this story! (Jason?) Glad you felt better in the end. Thanks for sharing a sweet slice of your Sunday.

  • http://whizmobc@telus.net Maureen

    I’ve belonged to many choirs. I think they are a hotbed for this sort of issue. The last choir I belonged to I quit. People can become quite egotistical about their voices and I was shocked that some choir members were offended I sang a solo and had only been in the choir for 1 1/2 yrs. Sigh I found it more inspiring to sing within the folds of the congregation. I’ve since joined a new church and had someone come up to me and say I should sing in the choir because I have such a nice voice. I’ll have to think about that first before I step into that role again. It removes the whole meaning of “singing once is like praising God twice”.

  • P-Marsh

    It is hard to let cool water run down your neck, and not jump!

    I could go on and on about how americans make and play tambourines incorrectly,
    but in the meanwhile I would fail to see what good is happening elsewhere.

    Thanks for the link for Josie and the pussy cats, I so miss the 70′s!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Paul, yes, tambourines are bound to throw us back to that decade. Maybe that’s why I have such a love/hate thing with them!

    Carmen, a video of this story just might make you laugh & cry simultaneously. And if I threw in all the details? You’d be floored. This is the all-audiences-approved version!

    Maureen, that makes me really sad. I hope I’m never responsible for making anyone feel like they can’t just use their gifts to praise God. I grew up in a church with a very “serious” choir and music program, which was a good fit in many ways, since I come from a family of musicians. But I have to say, if I had to choose an extreme, I’d rather have the sort of freedom of worship I have at my church now, and the sense that all of our true expressions of praise make God rejoice. Church is not a place for performance—it’s a place for being real and broken, and for practicing grace. (I hope you will try choir again, in your new church.)

    P-Marsh, I love this expression: “It is hard to let cool water run down your neck, and not jump!” So true! And I’m sure I would love to hear your thoughts on Americans and tambourines, but I’m not sure it would steer me in the right direction. :) You’re right—we need to make sure we’re not so focused on the annoyances that we miss the good happening around us.